Wednesday, December 24, 2008 Quiet as a Mouse

'Twas the night before Christmas...

and in the hotel kitchenette, my partner David was cleaning out the coffee maker. After removing the (disposable) filter full of used grounds, he looked around and said, "Hey--where's the compost bucket?"


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

May your windows and your hearts glow with light during this season.

Blackboard art by 9yo Son

Monday, December 22, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

Inspired by JessTrev, David and our 9yo son made a lovely bread to help us celebrate the Winter Solstice:

(Click on the picture for a full view.)

JessTrev includes the delicious bread recipe in her post. Check it out!

Son enjoyed making butter from scratch as well. We half-filled a pint jar with heavy cream, added a marble, and shook for about fifteen minutes.

The sun bread and the fresh butter seem to have done the trick. We woke this morning to watch the sun rise--and we're eagerly awaiting more light and more warmth to grace the coming days.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho, ho, ho!

Although our atheist-Jewish family does not celebrate Christmas, we have many friends who do--including this man, the farm manager at a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm:

I knit him the Santa hat from brilliant non-Christmas-oriented pattern for the Bearded Toque. (I think I am going to have to knit the regular one for a particular sometimes-bearded relative.)

I gave Bill the hat the day of a big dinner party. Many people tried it on that evening, and you can see some pictures of the various models here in a Flickr folder.

I'll include one shot of my favorite model (my 9yo son) showing off the hat here:

I hope all of you are having as much fun as I am preparing for upcoming holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Season of Giving

A day or two ago, I heard someone on the radio talk about volunteering to hand out sacks of groceries at a food bank, only to have the food run out long before the needy people did. The volunteer was profoundly moved when she faced the next person in line and had to tell her she would have to go home empty-handed. There was no more food for her to take home to her family.

Charities have been struggling during the economic crisis as more and more people need their services.

Interestingly, at the same time that so many people are suffering, many people are giving more than ever before. CONTINUED HERE

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A New Me

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I'm so sorry it has been so long since I've written. Sometimes I wonder if I'm ready to let go of this blog: to just live life, to post once a week (when I'm on schedule) at Green Phone Booth. I could read blogs again! I could read period again--books and the like!

I feel overwhelmed by the minimal demands of my day-to-day. Back when I was writing academic book after academic book, I had an excuse for not getting anything done. Now I don't. I sit at home watching my child grow up, watching my houseplants freeze in our cold home, watching the world go by, dreaming up new projects that I barely start because just bathing is enough for one day...

I feel guilty for not getting more done. I feel guilty for throwing away my Ivy League education, yada yada. I feel guilty for presenting a model my child probably has no idea he should feel pressured about. I feel guilty for presenting very few models other than a mother who blogs intermittently, knits obsessively, reads about the end of the world while sitting on the couch, and drinks red wine.

So yes, I am on vacation for a little while. More eventually.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Last spring I got very interested in foraging. My family took a hike through a local forest with a knowledgeable acquaintance who pointed out edible foods along our route. Our interest and confidence were both stoked by books such as The Forager's Harvest as well as the classic Stalking The Wild Asparagus.

What could be easier or more local than food that naturally grew in a place, with no labor from us?

During the early spring, my family collected quarts of dandelions and canned pints of delicious jelly. We picked purslane and sorrel which graced our stir-fries. And we eagerly awaited fall when we could collect acorns--and try everything from sugar-coated acorns to acorn-flour bread.

Last year, my young son and I collected zillions of acorns for art projects and pretending. We filled my backpack one afternoon as we waited for the bus, we picked them up on every walk, we heard their falls on our roof. Before I threw in a load of laundry, I had to pick acorns out of pockets.

But when was that, exactly? This year I waited, and waited. Still no acorns. Did we miss the season somehow?


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Local Thanksgiving

Although on Thursday we attended a friend's Thanksgiving, on Friday we cooked our own meal--all local and some of it from our own backyard garden.

* * *

For several years, we've split our celebratory meal into two. This allows us to have a full menu, not starve in the early part of the day, and not get too extraordinarily stuffed at the end.

For lunch, we served a salad of our backyard-grown arugula, local feta seasoned with Herbes de Provence (found at the farmers market), and a homemade maple-mustard vinaigrette.

We completed our midday section with a thick and spicy pumpkin soup. After roasting the tan pumpkin for about 45 minutes, I scooped out the flesh and added it to some sauteed onions and apples that I had going in the soup pot. Then I threw in some some vegetable-peeling stock, a bit of cream, pureed hot peppers, and a pinch of non-local curry powder. A warming preparation for an afternoon of cooking.

* * *

Dinner was more elaborate.

We acquired the local turkey from our Amish dairy supplier and served it with all our favorite sides.

Using corn we grew and ground ourselves, I made a skillet of all-corn cornbread, then crumbled it up and added mushrooms, onions, and some of our own backyard mustard greens. Throw in a couple of eggs, a bit of turkey broth seasoned with sage and rosemary, and then bake in a casserole for about half and hour. Surprisingly delicious. I felt quite proud eating what we had nurtured from seed.

Our main vegetable was roasted Brussels sprouts--an all-time favorite around here. There is very little that is easier to make. Cut the orbs in half length-wise, toss them on a baking sheet with oil, salt, and pepper, then roast until brown and slightly crispy. I throw them in with whatever else I am cooking, so the temperature varies--but ideally, try something around 400 degrees.

Because we could not find local cranberries, we substituted a thrown-together relish: cherry preserves I canned over the summer with some farmers-market horseradish. It was the same combination of sweet and tart--but it reminded me more of Passover than it did of Thanksgiving...

We also served two of our pickles, both canned with produce we grew ourselves. The green beans were spicy and garlicy, while the lemon cukes were sweet and mild. Great combo.

We drank a bottle of white made by our county's own vineyard. A bit sweet, which went well with the turkey.

* * *

To end our local feast, we made a sweet potato pie with a whole-wheat crust, served it with maple whipped cream, and ate it in front of a lovely fire.

We all were satiated and slept very, very well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blocking Dragons

David has been knitting dragon scarves recently:

a dark green one for our 9yo son, and this purple one (temporarily modeled by our son) which we wrapped up and gave to a young purple-obsessed dragon fan.

What a funny little pattern! Watching my partner knit it was amusing as he juggled three needles in order to create the scales.

The scarf was quite a hit. My favorite part is the round metal eyes we found in the button collection--a leftover from a 1950s sweater, perhaps?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


In a few minutes, we're off to the home of our close friends' parents' house where we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, we will cook our own local feast, but today we'll enjoy the company of a family who has adopted the three of us for many holidays over the past seven years. They live only an hour away--unlike our own families--and it always makes holidays special to have an extended clan of many generations surrounding us at times when we cannot be with our own parents and siblings.

This year, we're taking birthday presents to three of the members of this fall-birthday crowd. Two are celebrating their 40ths, and 1 just turned 7 years old. I love to wrap things up in reusable wrapping. This time I used silk scarves, all home-dyed play-cloths which my son used regularly for many years.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I've been thinking a great deal about the changing meaning of sustainability. Behaviors that used to seem weird or "hippie" now seem like wise financial moves. In this world of economic chaos, people are planting their own vegetable gardens and canning their extra produce, hopping on public transportation to commute to work, repairing equipment they might have simply replaced last year, and reducing the amount of purchasing they are doing as the holiday season approaches.

As Green Bean said in her post yesterday, "We are no longer hooked on shopping." Buy Nothing Day no longer seems so counter-cultural. Most of us just don't have that money burning holes through our pockets right now.

Many of us are new to a life of frugality. We don't yet have a fully satisfactory alternative in mind to the old American dream of acquisition. I've heard a remarkable number of people muttering about the "sad" or "empty" season of giving we are about to face.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why must we have such cold, dark days this time of year?

Monday, November 24, 2008

My 9yo son has been inspired by all my own frantic finishing to start his own project:

...a colorful hat, knit in the round.

Right now, though, he's put his needles down and is playing the piano, picking out the tune to "Up She Rises" and singing at the top of his lungs!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our family has decided to kick off the Dark Days Challenge by making a local breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and sausage.

The eggs and sausage came from our Amish dairy source. Delicious, easy, and filling.

The pancakes were more complicated. Although the wheat was not grown locally, we bought it in bulk and ground it ourselves with a little human-powered grinder. (You can see which human we're talking about in that link.)

We then made a sourdough starter with that flour. The jar of starter lives on the counter of our very cold kitchen. We feed it regularly and when the half-gallon jar gets too full...

...we pull out a two cups of the starter, add sugar to taste (a tablespoon or two is our usual, depending on the cook) as well as three or four tablespoons of melted butter or oil. Throw in a pinch of salt. If the mixture seems too loose for pancakes, add enough flour to thicken it up a bit. If you like, stir in an egg, or some grated apple, or blueberries, or whatever. Then add a teaspoon of baking soda to the batter. You can dilute it in a tiny amount of water first or you can just pour it in. Stir it and let the batter foam for a moment as you heat up a skillet.

Remember those volcanoes we made in elementary school with baking soda and vinegar? These pancakes work on the same principle. The sourdough starter mixed with soda causes the release of gas which allows the pancakes to rise without baking powder.

The flavor is a bit different from "sweet" pancakes, but we think they are absolutely delicious with farmer's market maple syrup!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feather and Fan

Over the last few days as I've been working my way through blocking all those shawls sitting in the corner, I've been knitting this lovely silk-and-mohair scarf with the classic feather and fan pattern:

I still have a few things left in my knitting basket to finish up before I cast on something new. However, I am getting my startitis out by facilitating my son's new knitting project: his first hat!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Prairie Shawl

Well, this is the last shawl I have left to be blocked. I finished it quite some time ago except for its bath and stretching:

This, the Heartland Lace Shawl by Evelyn Clark, will be a present for a very young friend who loves to put on a prairie costume and bonnet. I thought she needed a shawl to go with her outfit!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another finished blocking project...

I loved every minute of knitting this intricate Diamond Fantasy shawl, made from Shaefer Andrea silk yarn in the Emily Dickinson colorway. It will look beautiful on its future owner, a delicately-built woman who will look lovely in this color. Can't wait to see her wearing it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Public and Private Acts

Last year I learned how important the farm bill was to the way this nation approaches the way we eat. Recently, I've been moved by various requests to have an organic vegetable garden on the White House Lawn. And now, I'm learning how important it is to work for a reasonable Secretary of Agriculture. We need to make food a national issue, not just a personal one.

But the way this nation thinks about food and the way we eat is at some level private. And it is easy to get overwhelmed and start believing that our personal choices make very little difference. Our personal decisions will not solve all the world's problems. We are going to need the large-scale governmental decisions--symbolic as well as real--to truly make a more sustainable society.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Here is the beautifully simple Forest Canopy shawl, knit in Schaefer Anne. The colorway: Julia Child. I'm such a sucker for the Memorable Women series...

I knit this shawl during academic conferences--and will wear it to the next one!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cashmere Cowl

In my quest to finally get some of those not-quite-finished projects out of my project pile, I finally sewed in the ends of this luscious cowl, knit following the Pasmina Cowl pattern from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts using Jade Sapphire's 2-ply Mongolian Cashmere in the Lilac colorway:

Although it looks kind of silly with my sweatshirt, I can't take this amazingly-soft knitwear off!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

November is for Completion...?

For the last two Novembers, I have participated in NaKniSweMo--a challenge to knit an entire sweater in a single month. In 2007, I knitted a castle sweater for my son. In 2008, I knit a wild entrelac sweater for me. This year, I've dedicated my knitting month to finishing some of the myriad projects I have in the works, many of which are moments from completion.

I have two sweaters that just need buttons and blocking. I have three completed shawls that only need blocking. (Two of them I finished up this month after having them on needles for ages.) I have a balaclava which I will be gifting in mid-December, a pair of gloves missing the fingers on one hand, a beautiful lace scarf about three quarters finished, another scarf which just needs a serious block, and a colorwork cardigan I would love to knit on again now that a chill is in the air.

Well, and yes, I did cast on a simple new project on Election Night: a baby cable stole I plan to wear to the Inauguration.

Right now I can't stop working on it to put the shawls on wires. And I can't put the electric mattress cover on the bed until I've got them finished, since I can't stick pins into it.

Should I knit now and freeze tonight, or waste twenty minutes of my precious knitting time in order to block one of these babies?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Evening Knitting

I was planning to sit down after my son went to sleep and write a long cogent analysis of the world...


I'm going to bind off the final row of my "conference" shawl. Details--and blocking!--tomorrow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tonight, my son and I are attending the opening reception for Cranial Vault, an art installation in our local community center about my friend Tom's challenging experiences over the last decade. As the exhibit advertising states, "Using commissioned artwork, medical images, found sound, and collectibles, the exhibit reflects one man’s journey from a middle-of-the-night grand mal seizure through cancer treatment and brain surgery to a survivor’s new normal. Part curiosity shop, part medical illustration, and part memoir, the exhibit serves as an experiential travelogue of a trip, nine years and continuing."

As part of the celebration of this amazing exhibit, the curators are inviting viewers to participate by filling in their own phrenology map.

Here is mine:

You can check out my son's head over at his blog.

I met Tom and his wife and daughter at a party held by mutual friends. Our two families hit it off--and by the end of a long but casual conversation, they invited us to what they said might seem kind of weird: a brain surgery anniversary.

I almost fell off my chair. "You're kidding! I celebrate the anniversaries of my brain surgery, too!"

I think they might have thought I was teasing or making fun of Tom--but I was completely serious. (You can read my whole story at that link.)

Although my experience was intense, I was very lucky to have a non-cancerous tumor which did not threaten my life. Although I have some side effects from the tumor and surgery, my status is completely stable and I am now healthy.

Tom continues to face new symptoms, new doctors, and new treatments all the time. There are new dangers and fears as well. But as he says, "It doesn't make sense to me to approach any of this with pity or a lack of joy. There are a lot of ways all of us can approach fear and uncertainty. Humor is one of them. I wouldn't choose it any other way."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saying Goodbye

David leaves early tomorrow morning for 5 or 6 days in order to attend a conference. Son and I thought about going with him--it is a conference filled with interesting people, and it is in an especially interesting place this year--but at the last minute decided to stay home. Right now, I am already imagining the loneliness that will quickly set in.

Son and I have created a full calendar to keep us busy until David's return. We have exciting adventures planned, special meals thought out, and meetings with friends scheduled.

But tonight, we say our goodbyes. After a special meal of roasted chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, and mushroom risotto, we'll watch David pack his bags while we play word games or sing family songs. We'll finish our family bedtime read--then tuck in our son, turn out our lights, and light a candle. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being Radical, Being Traditional


When David and I decided to have a child together, we both were politicized in a new way: an intensely personal and traditional way. The experience of raising a child made me more aware of the importance of taking one's ethics deeply into one's day-to-day life choices. I had a home birth, breastfed my son for three and a half years, and chose to unschool/homeschool him.

The funny thing for me was realizing that what I defined as radical parenting was exactly what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had done. What I began to realize is that contemporary culture had taken away experiences that had naturally belonged to women--often in the name of convenience and modernity. These moments which had previously belonged to real people (and to their friends and communities) were now too often controlled by corporate medicine. It seemed like a radical act just to remember our past and learn lessons from our grandmothers.

In 2005, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured the theme of Food Culture USA. Suddenly, it became clear to me that those traditional-radical decisions I made regarding parenting had their parallels in all aspects of my life. I had been assuming that those decisions were entirely private, but it now became clear to me that these radical traditions were my personal source of power in the public world.

I had long since absorbed from my hobby-farmer grandmother that dietary fiber is at the heart of moral fiber. Now at the booths on the National Mall, I was realizing how many other people had learned this same lesson and played out its truth way beyond where my own mind had taken me.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


At the Green Festival, I attended a workshop with with Max Simon about meditation. I really liked his style: quiet and focussed, yet not too "spiritual" in his discussion.

I am obsessed with trying to figure myself out, trying to make ethical sense of my daily life, and trying to come to terms with the role of Judaism in my life. But I immediately feel excluded as soon as someone starts using the rhetoric of spirituality. Sometimes I can recognize religious people's talk of a "still, small voice" as pretty much the same thing I mean when I talk about an inner dialectic.

Dialectic basically just means thinking about ideas by having deep conversations with other people, with other intellects. Moments of tension and contradiction arise--but respectful open conversation allows both people to arrive at a place of higher thinking, of better thought, than they could have achieved alone. Great minds do not think alike; they create harmonies which make complex music.

Inner dialectic is just my shorthand way of referring to interior thoughts brought to the logical mind. Sitting down to examine one's emotional reactions, one's assumptions, or one's feelings can so easily stir up one's fierce judgmental side. I'm often quite ashamed of what I find rattling around my subconscious, and I often try to deny it or block it out entirely. But that negative chastising is not the goal here at all. Coming to those thoughts with acceptance and then playing them off against one's ethical commitments, one's goals, and one's sense of logic can allow us to understand more fully how and why we act. Playing these two kinds of ideas off each other can allow us to polish our logical functioning and see more fully into our ethics beliefs, allowing us to grow profoundly.

That inner dialectic happens for me when I sit down with the express intent of examining my life, my self. It happens quite often when I sit down to write--which is why writing is both my career and a big part of my personal daily practice aside from my work. I've kept a diary since I was about four years old--sometimes listing nothing more than what I ate for lunch (which seemed to matter a lot during first grade and has again now that I've started gardening, "eating local," and following food blogs). Sometimes I wrote about what got said in Quaker meeting, or about relationships with friends and lovers. Sometimes I wrote about politics or even knitting. Hey--you pretty much know what I write about if you follow this blog regularly.

* * *

Well, I certainly used this personal dialectic to veer away completely from what Max Simon was talking about...

Although meditation has some of the same goals as what I am calling "the inner dialectic," I suppose, it really confronts that idea of accepting one's interior thoughts without judgment. Ideas come and go as one sits quietly. Even without the deliberate analysis that the inner dialectic requires, Simon and other meditation experts argue that the quiet self-focus happens and one learns to pay attention in a much deeper way.

I was moved by what he said in his opening and I looked forward to the coming hour. Then he announced that we would walk into the center of the busy festival, all plop down and close our ideas, and do a "public display of meditation."

My first thought was about to think about how important the idea of knitting in public (or KIP'ing) is for many knitters. I've knit in public since I was a little girl and had grandmothers and great aunts who knit and crocheted and quilted in public, so it has always seemed quite normal and natural to me.

The idea of meditating in public, though--well that seemed not only embarrassing but impossible. "Isn't meditation pretty much defined by silence?" I thought to myself.

My second thought, even less charitable, was that this was a huge gimmick that Simon was using to advertise his wares.

But--I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. I followed the other participants out of the room into the public arena, feeling incredibly uneasy as we walked deliberately and silently in a long single-file line. Walking in that line, I felt like I was part of a spectacle.

On cue, we sat down on the floor and in a few seconds closed our eyes.

And I was instantly calm and unaware of specific noise. (Being hard of hearing helps me at these times, I assume. Closing my eyes always makes a lot of sound go away.) My breath was slow and my mind much quieter than I could have predicted. Let me make it clear that I mean my mind was quieter than I expected just for the limited amount of time I meditated--even if I had been in a quiet spot.

What fascinated me most was how intimately familiar it all felt.

I already know this quiet, focussed feeling.

It is the way I feel when I knit in silence. In fact, when I first closed my eyes, the first thought that popped across my awareness was knitting in my hands, rows of garter, knit stitch after slow knit stitch.

And now, as I feel intellectually that I should wrap up this post with some great word of wisdom, my yarn is calling to me, asking that I come to it instead--and breathe deeply, with acceptance, awareness, and calm.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008


My family had a lovely time on Saturday at the DC Green Festival. We walked around the enormous exhibit hall and tasted fair-trade chocolate, admired gorgeous handmade gifts and clothing, contemplated buying solar-powered LED holiday lights to hang in our sukkah, and enjoyed vegan soul food for lunch. We also talked to installers about fixing our ancient rope-and-pulley windows, met community leaders from a variety of organizations, and took in a few interesting lectures.

Our 9yo son had a wonderful time hanging out at the teen booth. He took a class on bike maintenance, made a shopping bag out of a used t-shirt, and learned how to yo-yo. He also learned how to play the nose harp. (Don't ask...)

As always, crowds this large leave me exhausted and ornery. Crowds this big focusing on buying and selling stuff--no matter how responsible that stuff might be--leave me even more overwhelmed.

* * *

Given the purchase-oriented nature of much of the fair, I was not expecting to be as motivated to work on changing the efficiency of our house as I have been since we returned from the festival.

For a long time we've been thinking about replacing our 1970 refrigerator. Unfortunately, it appears that today's refrigerators are all much larger--and a larger fridge will not fit in the spot. We've been trying for a while to grapple with the fact that when our fridge eventually dies, we'll have to rip out the upper cabinets and the pantry on that wall just to fit a new one in.

Often we wonder how much electricity our current fridge uses. While old refrigerators are notoriously inefficient, ours is so small compared to newer models that we've wondered if it might not be quite so awful after all. So I bought a Kill-a-Wattand plugged the fridge in last night. I'll let you know how our tests go!

One replacement option we've considered is a hyper-efficient Sunfrost fridge-only model. We do have a chest freezer downstairs to supplement. But would we go crazy having to go downstairs just for ice cream?

As I keep asking myself that question, I realize that worrying about this kind of small inconvenience is ridiculous. Our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up without much in the way of the stuff we now consider absolutely essential. That doesn't mean we should get that particular fridge at all--just that I need to be a bit more aware of the sense of entitlement and expectation with which I approach my life.

* * *

Tomorrow: a post about some non-product-oriented experiences at the Green Festival.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama the Riveter?

Yes, I promise this is the last Obama post for a little while:

This and other very funny pictures found here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

We had a lovely power-free Shabbat evening (violated only to take these pictures at the end)...

playing games with a necklace chain making shapes for others to guess...

and drinking Chicagos--a drink of brandy, triple sec (replaced here with homemade kumquat liqueur), bitters, and champagne:

I'm afraid I had enough Chicago in me that by the end I started being very, very sacrilegious and singing "Barack Obama" instead of "Baruch atah..."

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I am still trying to come back down to earth after Obama's victory Tuesday evening.

Here are two of my favorite post-election quotes:

"I'm at a christening. It's my christening as a born-again American."
--Norman Lear

"We've crossed over to a better place and a more hopeful time. Not simply because of one man, but because we were prescient enough to have recognized ourselves and the true nature of America reflected in that one man. From there, we set about the task of freeing ourselves from the darkness of this decade and the skulking shadows that have for too long haunted us. In this respect, all of us -- all races -- are a little more free at last. After all these years, we've finally arrived at moment when America feels like it's supposed to feel. This January 20th, all of America will be stepping through those doors with President and Mrs. Obama as the dark ride of the last eight years reaches its long-overdue conclusion -- a conclusion more joyful and overwhelming than I think any of us fully anticipated prior to 11 p.m. eastern time Tuesday night -- when we pushed beyond a crucial threshold on our way to a more perfect union."
--Bob Cesca

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Earning the Letter

Today over at the Green Phone Booth, I picture a very special honorary guest with whom we will gladly share our phone booth. Come visit!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An American Diary

12:40, Tuesday afternoon

Just returned from the polls, wearing my "I Voted" sticker. I've never had this kind of faith in a presidential candidate before--even when I was my son's innocent age watching as my own proud mother pulled the curtain to cast her vote for Jimmy Carter. In my adulthood, I have happily voted for Dukakis, for Clinton, for Gore, for Kerry. But I could not imagine that any of them could live up to what I wanted in a leader.

Today it is different. I don't know what people felt when they pulled the ballot for FDR, for Kennedy. Like I do today? I'm thinking about what MLK called "the fierce urgency of now." Now it is our responsibility, our time. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!"

2:40pm, Tuesday afternoon

I am weeping. How can a 40-something-year-old woman be so emotional in the face of possibility? "In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."

4:40pm, Tuesday afternoon

Son is taking a late-afternoon nap in preparation for a late evening watching the returns. I think about my 9yo boy and the fear he has faced this year as he came into awareness of climate change, of peak energy, of bits of the financial crisis. I want this time ahead of us to be filled not just with whatever difficulties we must face but also with the hope, the caring, the sense of duty that Obama inspires in Americans. "These are our hands; What are we gonna build with them?"

Leading the Way

I finished Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Frontwith a feeling not only of hope, but also with a feeling of radical responsibility. What I love best about Astyk's book is the author's unshakable commitment to her inner ethical compass. Usually, I am very resistant to authors telling me to do what they think is right for the world. But Astyk combines belief in universal morals (like truly committing our lives to taking care of elderly parents and children, connecting with our communities, and helping strangers in need) with acceptance and respect for diversity. Instead of feeling like she is preaching at me, I feel like she is inspiring me to try to live up to my ideals and attempt to be my highest self.

For the full review, check out my post over at The Blogging Bookworm.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I keep crying happy tears when looking at these wonderful Obama family pictures. This is what I need in the White House! Fundamentally, I trust that anyone who protects, respects, loves, and enjoys his family this much will do the same for this nation.

And don't miss these great romantic moments--and these--between the Barack and Michelle!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Natural Born

The US Constitution requires that all presidents be natural born citizens of this country. Candidates born as citizens of another country then naturalized can serve in all but this highest of government roles.

But what is a "natural born citizen"? It is not defined by the Constitution at all.

Interestingly, people have questioned both Obama's status and McCain's status.

* * *

Obama was born in Hawaii according to his campaign and the birth certificate they published on his website.

Some have suggested, based on what most people see as extremely problematic evidence, that he was in fact born in Kenya. In order to question Obama's qualification, you have to accept this argument. (I am not telling you to believe it at all in real life--I certainly don't--but just play along with me for a minute.)

Very few people believe one actually has to be born on US soil to be "natural born"--since you are born a citizen if one of your parents is a US citizen, as Obama's mother was. But the complication in this case is that the law at the time required the parent to reside for 5 years after the age of 14 within the US--and Obama's mother was only 18yo and therefore had not resided anywhere for 5 years after the age of 18. Surely this is not what the founders of the Constitution were fighting against....

The law was later changed and made retroactive so Obama would in fact be covered anyway, even if he was born in Kenya.

But if you really want to get nit-picky (which can be an enjoyable intellectual activity at times), you could argue that it is impossible to be a natural born citizen if you've already been alive for a few years. A natural rebirth?

* * *

McCain's case is pretty similar. He was by all accounts born in the Panama Canal in 1936. At the time of his birth, birth in the Canal Zone did not lead to US citizenship. Although his parents were both US citizens, if you believe that "natural born" means you have to be born on the soil of the country, then McCain would not qualify.

But he's safe--right?--since a law passed when he was a year old retroactively made him a citizen. But, oops, just like in the case of a Kenyan-born Obama, McCain's situation would require a rebirth....

All of this is pretty crazy, as Senator Lindsey Graham says(who I never ever agree with in any other case): It would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military officer was born in a military station and could therefore not run for president. Just as crazy as being penalized for having an underage mother.

* * *

When I was talking about this absolutely inconsequential quagmire of a game with David, our 9yo son explained the he in fact knew exactly what "natural born" means.

"I could be president!" He realized. "I was born at home, and you didn't have drugs or anything, right? I was natural born!"

Shakespeare's Macbeth would approve.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes We Can!

That would be "Oui, on peut!" in Cajun country:

And here's a fantastic call from the Latin American community to "Respondele a Obama":

It seems that all cultures are responding to the powerful message of Obama:

Didn't you know O'bama was Irish?

Check out the psychedelic Barack OBollywood!

And even white southerner males make a showing in this phenomenal radio ad by the absolutely incomparable Ralph Stanley.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The election night drink of choice: a gin martini garnished with one cool cucumber (a cornichon or gherkin--pickled or not depending on your own condition).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making Change Happen

As we approach Election Day, I've been thinking a lot about real superheros from our political history. One name which keeps resonating with me during these times of economic crisis is Eleanor Roosevelt. This month, she would have celebrated her 124th birthday.


Friday, October 24, 2008

A Little Doom with Your Morning Tea?

Now that a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami" has hit, "those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief," says Alan Greenspan.

"We've reached a situation of sheer panic," says Nouriel Roubini in a Bloomberg article. Roubini is a leading economist who predicted the current financial crisis in 2006. "There will be massive dumping of assets" and "hundreds of hedge funds are going to go bust." Roubini continues, "Don't be surprised if policy makers need to close down markets for a week or two in coming days. " He goes further: "Things will get much worse before they get better. I fear the worst is ahead of us." (UPDATE 9AM: It has started happening.)

Brilliant thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggested on PBS's NewsHour that we might be entering the "most difficult period since--not since the Great Depression; since the American Revolution. He continues, "I hope I'm wrong. I wake up every morning--actually, I don't wake up every morning now. I've started to wake up at night the last couple of weeks hoping that I'm wrong, begging to be wrong. I think that we may be experiencing something that is vastly worse than we think it is." (Video here.)

Time for another cup. Make it a strong one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Separated at Birth?

James Taylor

Michael Pollan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Living in Booths

Laura Ingallstein from Little House in the Shtetl joins me this week in the Green Phone Booth to cook a meal made entirely from stuff my family grew in our backyard. We also talk about the meanings and practice of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

This mission requires me to transform my green superhero cape into an apron. It also requires the Green Phone Booth to become a sukkah. Luckily, this is not a difficult prestidigitation since the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is also called the Festival of Booths.

Ma Ingallstein Preparing the Evening Meal in the Family's Green Booth
(Who would have thought that Jews have been pioneers for millenia?)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

We had a lovely and interesting lunch today, served on our bento trays. We made miso soup with a vegetable-peelings stock (mostly tomatoes and apples) and added some julienned broccoli stems, pea shoots, and scallions. The snow peas are just steamed and the mushrooms are sauteed with mirin and sesame oil then sprinkled with chives. There are also some pickled radish shreds. The entree is asian rice with smoked sardines and soy sauce. For dessert we had some canned rambutans sprinkled with a few black sesame seeds. (Son and I use Singapore Math which constantly has word problems about rambutans, so we had to try them. They are very similar to lychees.)

Delicious--and the meal made us feel very special. I love the peace of eating a late lunch on the weekend!


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