Holiday spirit as experienced by the frugal introvert

The pups are lined up head-to-butt on the couch twitching in their sleep. I heard a report at work this week from David that speedy Emmy finally caught that squirrel in the back yard… with bad results for the squirrel. Her face is a little scratched up too. Walter and David were rather disturbed by the scene!

Thanksgiving has come and gone (and it was tasty). Now we’re solidly in the holiday season. I feel like purchasing zero gifts and I don’t want anything, which is generally a good thing when it comes to saving money and not indulging in consumerism. I suppose there’s some element of economic crash if we all stopped shopping, but I think it would be a good move in this country at least. I didn’t share in the outrage many people online expressed about Black Friday shopping starting early or even about holiday decor going up too early in stores. I really don’t care if there are decorations before Thanksgiving. If you feel retail is pushing you, don’t open your wallet. Big deal.

I think I’d like to put up a tree this year, especially since I collected so many ornaments while I was abroad last year, but I’m not sure we have room. There’s a foster rabbit in the usual tree spot and clutter tries to take over any leftover real estate around here.

Just heard the unemployment rate is down to 8.6%, the lowest in 2.5 years. Seems somewhat positive.

Bit of a PSA: here’s where you can opt out of receiving telephone books. My bunnies eat them but they can’t keep up with the supply.

Cute link of “grammar” gifts like air quote mittens and punctuation mark lamps. (But don’t buy me anything. 🙂

I made a tortilla soup last week that was yummy, based on two other recipes. My version:

Tortilla Soup

vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans, undrained
2 quarts vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn
2 avocados, peeled/pitted/cut into chunks or slices

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Saute the onion in oil in a large soup pot. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin, and chili peppers, cooking until onions are tender and spices are fragrant. Mix in the tomatoes, pour in broth and black beans, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix corn and avocado chunks into the soup, and continue cooking 5-10 minutes. Serve in bowls over tortilla chips, topping with cheese.

Does Egon drink Guinness?

Our second day in Dublin (last weekend) included a trip to the Guinness brewery. Here’s how a conversation went after seeing the old flower ad above: How do you define flourish? Then looked up fleur de lis. That’s the symbol of the Three Musketeers. They were in Slumdog Millionaire: what were their names? Athos, Porthos, and had to look up the other one. Aramis, but can only think of someone in Ghostbusters… Harold Ramis!

Ireland is a country in love with its courgettes and aubergines. Now, I thought I loved zucchini and eggplant, but darn it, I’m getting tired of them. At home every token veg dish is pasta and here it’s pasta with aubergines or some other variation of aubergines with courgettes tossed in for good measure. Hasn’t anyone heard of BEANS? I miss beans.

There are no screens in the windows. Cheerios taste like sugar cereal here and are marketed by Nestle, not General Mills.

The letter Z is pronounced zed here. We have a lot of abbreviations and acronyms at work, so I hear zed just about every day. And I always think of General Zod from Superman II.

I found this handy from Wiktionary: (Latin script letter names) letter; a, bee, cee, dee, e, ef, gee, aitch, i, jay, kay, el, em, en, o, pee, cue, ar, ess, tee, u, vee, double U, ex, wye, zee/zed. But I’d also like to note that H is not aitch here, but rather haitch, so it’s p-haitch at work and spelling my name includes haitch in the middle too.

I’m sure it’s not dominating the US TV and water coolers like it does here, but the World Cup is going on in South Africa right now. The Irish folks at work said they would be rooting for the US since they didn’t want to root for England. We get a lot of British TV so I’m seeing a lot of support for England as it is. David and I watched the England/USA match last night and I still think soccer is boring. Somehow the US is considered to have “won” even though it was a tie game. And there was this horrible buzzing noise from the crowds the whole time. Oh well, I’m going to have to live here longer to understand this one.

Some good news from the States:
California bans plastic bags
Pet-friendly license plate will be available next year in Indiana!

Albuquerque bans companion animal sales in pet shops: “Since the ban started, animal adoptions have increased 23 percent and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35 percent.”

And yes, I get almost all my news from Facebook.

St. Patrick’s Day parade

I had no alcohol, sorry. I drove up to Cork and took the Park-n-Ride (€5 to park on the way and take the double-decker bus into the center of the city: avoid crazy city parking, save money, help the environment!) to see the parade.

Fota Wildlife Park

bunch of pirate kids

more than meets the eye

some kind of smoking dragon alligator thing following a Captain Hook type guy, out of the picture (I think this is a play on a movie I didn’t see but I’m vaguely aware of… Disney?)

Not really sure what’s going on with these guys!

The parade wasn’t very high energy in places, but there was a ton of people. I kept getting crowded by kids sneaking in front of me, which was fine except for the one too tall to see over! But his name was Paddy so it seemed appropriate.

huh huh… Doody.

While we’re on the subject, this is hilarious!

Pack, purge, panic

Some random thoughts to prove I’m still alive.

I did indeed have cadaver bone put in during my osteomyelitis treatment! It was irradiated, powdered, and mixed with what is basically plaster of Paris, but it still sounds exotic. Unfortunately I’ve had some additional dental pain recently. You’d think I traumatized my teeth or something.

Arliss had her fourth surgery a week ago (vet and I agreed she didn’t need a CT scan after all) and she’s doing great! She even gained weight in the last two weeks.

Loving the Indy Winter Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. The place is PACKED and I love seeing cyclists with panniers riding in the snow! Note: the local chickens went on strike when it got super cold the last couple of weeks, so eggs were harder to come by. I like being able to get a half dozen a month since we don’t use more than that, and then I can take the carton back to the farmer to use again.

I discovered recently-reopened El Sol de Tala. This town has more Mexican (I use that as a geographic/ethnic term loosely) restaurants than you can imagine, but this one place stands out. They even have a veggie menu. It’s not the same old enchiladas anymore, people!

Following a craving, I had French toast at Denny’s, and even if they hadn’t ruined it with cinnamon and powdered sugar, it still was nowhere as good as Dad’s. He also blows away every pancake on earth.

I’ve finally heard from some of the relocation folks and the target start date in Ireland is March 1. There’s so much to do that it’s hard not just to plop on the couch with 81 SVU reruns on Tivo and ignore the obvious (that’s how many were scheduled in this two week period). One of my current focuses (okay, foci) is pantry raid: use up all the groceries that line our cupboards and freezer. In the past week we had breakfasty stuff to use up biscuits and fake sausages and last night I made chik’n and rice casserole. My freezer has several fake meat products that I’ve always kept as backup, but usually have been creative enough not to need for most cooking. I see a lot of chili in our future for the ground ‘beef’ crumbles…

Consumer shitlist

Do not add me to your mailing list. Ever. Unless I ask to be on it. Just because I found your product online or bought something in your store doesn’t mean I want a relationship with you, future business with you, nor physical mail at my house. In fact, if I could order something to be shipped to my house without telling you where I live, I would.

OMG, great business opportunity: cloaking who orders stuff and where it goes! I can already get a single use instantly-generated number for my credit card to use online. What if they could cloak the rest of my identity during the purchase?

This problem afflicts my online donations to charity, too. Don’t make me a scrooge.

On the list so far recently:
Men’s Wearhouse (David had to rent a tux for a wedding. He doesn’t like you.)
DiscoveryStore (I bought someone a gift last year. I don’t like you either.)
Gardener’s Supply magazine (whattttt?? It’s defined by its online-only existence!)
Sephora (Funny how my online profile says I’m not on your catalog list but I still get one)
American Diabetes Association (hardest mailing list I ever tried to get off)
Gleaners Food Bank
Farm Sanctuary
Wheeler Mission
Bike Nashbar
Some home-grown mortgage company who just didn’t understand why we don’t want their personal newsletter after buying a house three years ago. I don’t care if you went to Florida for a week or if you have tips on how to make soup.

I call to opt out when I can, but someone keeps selling my name. There must be some law about easy opt-out from email lists, because every time I am added to one I can get off in one click. I can also control what I see through spam filters if necessary. But it is usually really hard to get off a catalog list, and when you do call, you still see them for months. Ask my permission to share my info, or offer me a discount on my purchase to sell my info to someone else.

It makes me want to opt out of consuming altogether. Not a terrible idea…

America Recycles Day is Nov 15

The sun is shining through my huge window in my energy-efficient office building, where lights go out when motion is not detected. From here I can see the giant smokestacks of Covanta, where the city’s curbside-collected trash is burned to make steam and then electricity. I think this is a pretty neat way to handle waste, and I learned that they recycle the metal that comes through the trash too. I’m sure it’s because they can sell it/can’t burn it so well, but the net effect is good for resource preservation.

Next Sunday is America Recycles Day.


The site has a recycling conversionator/calculator (which was niftier than I expected), a pledge, and a few links to recycling information. Now, I’ve been recycling as long as I can remember, and I think it’s pretty neat that my Dad has been into it longer than that. I pay extra for curbside recycling because it’s incredibly convenient and shows the neighbors I care. Curbside even takes #1-7 plastics now along with the cardboard, glass, and aluminum.

This one from the website was a shocker: Every three months, Americans landfill enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet! While I hear arguments sometimes how it’s not ‘cost effective’ to recycle glass and paper when the economy is down, aluminum is pretty universally agreed upon as probably worth recycling, even by folks who just don’t give a crap about any other recycling. Aluminum has value to anyone who takes it to the scrapyard. Of course I set it out with the curbside pickup (our biweekly recycling tote is usually full and also larger than our trash volume) because as long as it gets to a recycling facility, I’m happy. I also trash dig at work and pick up recyclables in parking lots and when I walk the dogs in the park. I know I’m the weird one, but Americans are so lazy that we landfill airplane loads of metal?

Anyway, thanks for taking a moment not to put a pop can in the trash. It’s really not that hard to put it in a recycling bin later.

Best recycling info in Indy is at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Their new website looks nice but I’m not sure the map of where to recycle stuff is as useful as the list they used to have.

Puppy pranks

Because David does everything with flair, as I often say, I give you: the rain barrel.
I don’t think the neighbors knew what they were agreeing to when he asked if he could install the barrel between our homes. Their large bush obscures it well enough from the street, and the goal was to share the water with them (they garden much more than we do and have many beautiful flowers). They’ve taken to calling it the Water Tower and singing of Petticoat Junction girls. We did finally have rain today and it works! There is room for a second barrel beneath the first one and the stand would survive a tornado.

After a lesson wearing the harness in the house, and a lesson going on a walk with the harness, today Walter tried the harness attached to the WalkyDog on the bike.
waltbike waltbike2
I walked the bike several blocks with him in a fine drizzle, and we’ll have to practice more because he wants to pull. At least he’s no longer afraid of the bike! We had the most success while going quickly and as far from the curb as practical, because then he’s focusing on trotting and not sniffing the gutter. I guess that’s good once we get going but I haven’t tried riding with him yet!

Just caught Casper snoozing, my fluffy nut who can’t be brought inside from the yard these days without a cookie bribe because she’s too busy eating tomatoes.
Now the dogs are wrestling and nibbling each other on that bed. Their best performances this weekend were Casper barking at an email inbox chime she thought was the doorbell (Walter is bright enough to know better) and Walter being scared of David, who came home from a wedding last night in a tux. He had to strip to underwear before Walter stopped hiding behind me and ran to meet him!

“Ah, he always smelled that way”

When I was young, we’d go visit my great great aunt and uncle’s farm on the west side of town. Uncle Walt and Aunt Dorothy had 80 acres, and at various times, cows, chickens, corn, a pond, an inground pool (this was the most exciting part for my brother and me at the time), dogs, woods, strawberries, you name it. They had a long dirt lane and when you drove on it, the resident dog (jobs included guard and groundhog killer) would come running to meet you.

My mom and her mom both spent lots of time at the farm when they were young. I am SO glad we got to go visit too, but I wonder what it would have been like to live there for whole summers. There are stories of using dynamite to blow up field rocks and my mom getting lost as a toddler and the dog finding her.

They lived in a creepy-cool 1850s(?) farmhouse and the upstairs, a place we rarely visited, wasn’t even vented for heat. The dirt cellar had amazing jarred veggies on old shelves. The big wraparound porch had rocking chairs and bees would visit the flowers while you sat around and talked.

The old barns were really amazing to me. I was not very adventurous and didn’t explore as much as I should have, but the falling-down old chicken coop and slatted corn sheds fascinated me. My memories don’t include the animals that lived there, since Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Walt were older by then and rented their cornfields to other farmers, but the old buildings were right there by the house as a reminder. There’s a picture somewhere, one I clearly remember, of kids bottle-feeding a calf. I remember the wooden ramp with rails where the grown cattle apparently climbed on the truck to go to slaughter. My mom said Uncle Walt would cry when they left.

Whatever happened to that world? It must have been amazing to be an American farmer through the bulk of the last century; the changes in fertilizers and yields, the move to families shopping in big grocery stores, the selling of this beautiful property in the country to be another fancy subdivision after the old farmers went off to assisted living facilities. Uncle Walt suffered from illnesses related to his life’s work, but I just remember him sitting in a recliner and telling deadpan jokes. (When asked why his dog was so spoiled, he responded with the title of this post.) Aunt Dorothy climbed on top of the shed in her 70s to paint; I remember her still liking to eat Long John Silver’s food, of all things, in her 90s, long after moving away from the farm and going deaf.

I was thinking of the farm after watching Food, Inc. last weekend with friends. Please go see it–it’s amazing what we don’t know about the food we eat and where it’s sourced. I visited a farmers’ market just before the movie, and went to another one this past weekend, but yet that’s not where the bulk of my food starts. I’m trying to take advantage of more markets this year while we are in growing season, plus we are growing more vegetables ourselves. When I stop to think about this basic thing, food, it amazes me what an industry it’s become. Now there are even concerns about ‘food security,’ whether from national perspectives or right here in my city.

Maybe it’s not helpful to idolize the old family farm in this day of WalMarts and a bigger population, but I know none of Uncle Walt’s cows stood knee deep in their own manure their whole lives, nor did his chickens live in cages the size of a sheet of paper. The unchecked growth of factory farming and seed law signals to me the dirty politics and the greedy side of capitalism that tosses aside any reasonable treatment of worker, animal, or planet.

The power of consumer dollars: a vote every time you eat.

I’m very excited about the upcoming opening of our first non-profit community grocery in a rehabbed building in an underserved part of the city: Pogue’s Run Grocer!

Multimedia (you were sick of reading, right?)

I have been giving to more charities lately and every freakin’ time they add me to the mailing list. This drives me nuts. I understand I look like a good prospect because I’ve donated once, but my environmental side detests physical mail, especially solicitations, and I only donate online anyway. Why can’t there be a radio button for me to decline future mailings when I give the first time? I’d be much more likely to give again without the aggravation. They waste my donation on paper, postage, staff… that’s not why I gave them money.

Seriously, people, contact me by EMAIL if I gave you money through your website. Then I can spam or unsubscribe (or even better, set my preferences to remind me again in six months when I’ll be ready to give to you again) and you don’t waste your time and money. Let’s put the Post Office out of business. Nonsense. Why do you need my address to give you $$?

Went to Indiana Black Expo corporate luncheon this week. My company bought a lot of tickets. After a silly string of forwarded emails that never did find out if I’d have something to eat at this function, and several comments that I could always eat the salad (argh), in an ironic twist, EVERYONE ate salad! That was the meal. Sure, everyone else had a chef salad but sure enough, there was a foliage-only version for the picky weirdos like me. Wow, I had a lot of fiber that day.

Jamie Foxx and a few other folks received awards after short comments by the governor, mayor, and former mayor (who oddly enough received an award at the other corporate fundraiser I attended and he now works for my company). I was looking forward to inspirational speeches and was a bit disappointed that it focused on entertainment and awards, but I projected my previous experience here, I guess. Or perhaps that’s a cultural bias. Anyway I really preferred the Lambda Legal dinner because the speakers were good.

Okay, now my debut music video. I’ve been playing with a little Flip video camera mounted on my bike. The lame Windows MovieMaker software won’t allow me to specify how much to speed up the clip (at least I can’t find a way to do it other than double or half speed), so I couldn’t match the length to the song I chose. But I do have a video now which is just part of a cloudy Friday’s ride home, sped up so it’s less boring. Of course you won’t get to hear the guys yelling at me out their car window (the only part I understood was the F-bomb), but you will get to hear Silversun Pickups’ Lazy Eye. Until the song ends and there’s a little silent cycling left over. Ideas for better (hopefully free) software? Also, what is the best (fast, universal, whatever) file format for sharing on blogs and such? I started a Vimeo account, which is the embedded video below, but it’s showing as slightly poorer quality than the original file I uploaded, which can be clicked on with the text right above the Vimeo stuff. The direct link file format seems slow and large.

Yes, I know I have lots of room for improvement in editing. Just a first attempt.


Indy Bike Commute from Amy D on Vimeo.