Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ostara Recipe Confusion

Some of you will know this already, but modern earth-centered paganism is just that.  Earth centered.  Many pagans are very eco-conscious, very friendly to the causes of combating climate change, organic food and reducing carbon footprints. 

Ostara falls each year on the spring equinox (which is March 20-22 in the northern hemisphere).  It is a celebration of the return of longer days, greener fields and the fertility of animals (thus the egg and rabbit motifs). 

With the eco-conscious nature of paganism and the season in mind I was really disappointed by the results of my Google search for Ostara recipes.  This time of year here in the northern hemisphere the foods in season are pretty slim pickin'.  Veggies are limited to sprouts and leafy varieties.  Early lettuces, asparagus, spinach.  Fruits are even more limited.  Strawberries may barely be turning red if you started them early and rhubarb, which is not really a fruit but can be used as one, may be available.  Well-kept apples, onions, garlic and winter squash may still be available (though anything you buy in the store is probably not well kept from last fall but flown in from warmer climes), but for the most part, that's it.  The foods that ARE plentiful are ones that are available year round to agricultural people.  Meat, eggs (if chickens have resumed laying enough to keep you in eggs, or if you have cold-hardy varieties of chickens which lay through the winter) and milk. 

So then why, if pagans are trying to be tuned into the earth and watch their footprint's size, are all the recipes I'm finding calling for berries, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and all manner of other high-summer plant foods?

I posit that we have lost our way a little bit here.  Even we who wish with all our hearts to steward for our Mother Earth have lost sight of what She offers us in the way of food this time of year.  We have been blinded by the ever-bounty of the grocery store and have forgotten where our food is coming from.  If you're eating green beans in March they have traveled a long way to make it to your plate, leaving a trail of fossil-fuel exhaust the whole way.

I'm not saying at all that having a bountiful choice of food year-round is a bad thing, but at least on our holy days, should we not keep our region's seasonal choices in mind?  Even if you can't get locally grown food this time of year, shouldn't we try to at least eat as in-season as possible?

In the spirit of honoring Earth's stately pace through the cosmos, I offer these in-season Ostara recipes.

Simple Green Salad

1 head early lettuce variety (butter lettuce, baby lettuces of all kinds)
1 bunch spinach/baby spinach
1/2 onion, sliced, rings separated

Chop or tear lettuce and spinach to bite-sized pieces and toss with onion rings.  Top with a simple vinegrette dressing of 2 parts your favorite vinegar to 1 part extra virgin olive oil plus minced garlic, salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Apple and Dried Cranberry Chicken Salad

1lb chicken parts (I usually use breasts), cooked and chopped into small pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, chopped (leave the skin on, it's super good for you!)
1/3 cup mayo
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients and serve on freshly baked bread

Deviled Eggs

6 eggs, boiled
2-3 T. mayo
1 t. mustard (yellow gives a nice zip but you can use any variety.  Whole grain is especially nice)
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, for sprinkling

Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolk (which, by the way, is a single cell.  There, you learned something).  Combine yolks with mayo, mustard, salt and pepper.  Place into a plastic baggie with a hole cut in the corner and pipe back into the egg whites.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Garlic and Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Onion and Apple Slaw

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tsp rubbed sage
2 cooking apples, sliced (since you're cooking them it is okay to peel these apples)
2 onions, halved and sliced
4 pork chops (whatever kind strikes your fancy)
Splash of apple cider or white vinegar

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Add 1/3 of this mixture to the apples and onions, rub the rest on the pork chops.  Brown pork chops in large, heavy skillet, add onions and apples, cover and cook until onions and apples are tender and the chops are just a tiny bit pink in the middle.  Splash a little vinegar on to liven up the flavors.

Vanilla Custard

here for the recipe, I didn't concoct this myself at all and will not take credit for this recipe.  I don't even suggest any variations (because it is freaking amazing) except to top it with fresh strawberries, which are closer to being in season than blueberries.

This is our menu for today.  Enjoy the season, everyone, and happy Ostara!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I'm not Ashamed to be a Grammar Nazi

Lately a lot of my friends on Facebook have been sharing cool little e-cards.  They're sometimes hilarious, sometimes hilariously true, and sometimes, once in a while, obviously not proof-read.  Anyone can make one and sometimes they go viral. "I can't share this, but it's so awesome!" I think to myself.  The obvious grammar, spelling or logic error makes it completely useless to me.  I've forever been correcting friends' and family's grammar, ever since I was little.  It has alienated a few people, made me unlikeable to some, and irritated just about everyone.  Its part of who I am, though.  Like the friend who has to wash her hands 20 times a day or the cousin with a really irritating laugh with a hair trigger, you pretty much learn to live with it or stop hanging out with me. 

Aside from the term "grammar Nazi" (because, ya know, correcting someones grammar is EXACTLY THE SAME as participating in genocide), I'm cool with being one.  I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes when I'm tired or distracted.  I use the word "like" too much, I sometimes type in all-caps for emphasis.  Sometimes I even put periods after sentence fragments (Also. For. Emphasis.).  I am actually capable of letting similar mistakes go when I find them.  Obvious typos, sentences ending in prepositions, I can handle not correcting these things, they've worked their way into common use with the Information Age (also, you're welcome for not using the word "vernacular" in this sentence).  Improper use of "your/you're" and "their/there/they're" drive me batty, though.  Similarly, correcting these things drives others batty, which leaves us at an impasse.  Either I correct the grammar mistakes I see/hear and feel better or I don't and let others continue to feel alright.

To all those I correct,  I'm really not trying to be a bitch.  When I say something like, "Actually, this sentence requires the use of the word 'their' instead of 'there'," or, "Its spelled a-l-g-o-r-i-t-h-m," I'm not calling you out.  I'm not trying to make you look or feel stupid.  Even though these things come easily to me I understand that everyone has talents in different areas.  Maybe you're a terrible speller, but algebra is a breeze for you.  Maybe you can't tell where an comma goes, but you can run a marathon.  Perhaps you are one of those people who capitalize random letters, but you're a fantastic cook. 

My whole point here is that it's okay for you to embrace your strengths and it's okay for me to embrace mine.  If you're a fantastic musician, mechanic or carpenter that's really awesome!  I'm a good reader, a good speller and halfway decent with English grammar.  That's my thing.  And I'm okay with being good at it, and I'm okay with having a compulsion to correct mistakes.

I will leave you with two thoughts.  The first is that I am always ready to learn something new.  Feel free to correct me when I'm wrong.  Really.  <--- Including that sentence fragment right there.  And the second thought is just a little bit of snark because, well, I wouldn't be me if I didn't include some.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Cloth Diaper Manifesto

I get questions about cloth diapers a lot.  I cloth diapered both of my kids and there is a growing interest in using cloth diapers because of the economic and environmental benefits.  Not to mention they are freaking cute. 

But what kind of diaper makes the most sense for your style, budget and environmental concerns?  Let's explore that!

Let's start with some cloth diaper lingo, including all the types of diapers available.

AIO (all in one): And all-inclusive diaper.  No parts to disassemble, no stuffing.  These are the most similar to disposable diapers, just wrap it around the baby and go.  They include an absorbent layer and a layer of water proof material (usually PUL) to keep the diaper from leaking.  These are also usually the most expensive option, and they can be hard to clean, since they don't come apart.  But they're great for babysitters and others who have no experience with cloth diapers.  Footprint wise, these probably cost a little more as well, since the PUL layer is basically super thin plastic.  If you use a diaper and a cover separately you can re-use the cover for several diaper changes, thus reducing the total amount of PUL in your diaper collection (also called a stash).
A Bumgenius! AIO diaper

AI2 (all in two):  These are similar to AIOs but they usually have an insert that snaps into the shell (outer, waterproof part) or one that slips into a pocket in the shell.  These are usually a little cheaper than AIOs and clean a little easier.  If you get the kind of AI2 diaper that has an insert that snaps into the shell sometimes you can re-use the shell and just snap in a new insert.  If baby poops, though, it usually gets on the shell and then you have to change the whole thing.  So you will save a little bit on the PUL/plastic footprint part.

This is a Flip AI2 diaper

Fitted Diapers:  These diapers look similar to AIOs and AI2s, but they require the use of a separate waterproof barrier if you want to keep baby's clothes (and your furniture... and your own clothes) dry.  It seems more expensive if you use one fitted diaper and one cover for each diaper change, but overall this option is more economical, usually, than AIOs or AI2s, since you can re-use the cover over and over again until it starts to smell or gets poop on a part that doesn't wipe clean easily (like the waistband).  Because many fitted diapers AND covers hug the baby around the legs and waist, I found that this is the best leak protection.  They are easy to clean, too, and it's nice to be able to let a baby's bottom breathe sometimes.  You can use these without a cover for days when you're at home and can change diapers frequently, and this can help heal or prevent diaper rash.


A prefold diaper being used with a Snappy instead of pins
Prefolds:  Many cloth diapering families consider these the "workhorse" diaper.  They are cheap, easy to clean, and as with fitted diapers you can re-use the covers many times with them.  A lot of parents are initially opposed to prefolds because they look old-fashioned and don't come in pretty colors or prints like the other diapers do.  I say that they are a great, easy-to-use, economical, environmentally friendly option.  You can fold them in thirds and put them right inside a cover, wrap them around the baby by folding in thirds except for "wings" at the top, which are used to pin the diaper on the baby, or use them as an insert for your AI2s.  They come in both natural and synthetic fibers, and you can even purchase organic prefolds, an option that I have not found in other diaper types.  These do tend to wear out quicker than other diaper types, so be aware that you will probably have to replace some of the larger sizes, since kids wear them for longer than the newborn and small sizes.

Prefolds come in different sizes.  These are the sizes from

Flats:  As the name suggests, these diapers are not "prefolded" but instead are large flat sheets which must be folded to fit the baby.  I have never known a family who used these, and they are not highly available in the US.  They ARE, however, super easy to make and clean.  You can find patterns online, just type "flat diaper pattern" into your preferred search engine.

Doublers:  These are just strips of fabric layers that you can add to your diaper to increase absorbency.  Super handy for heavy wetters or for overnight and nap time.  They come in colors or plain, synthetic or natural fibers.  I LOVED my hemp doublers.  They were so soft and so absorbent.  You can use them with any type of diaper.  On the outside of the diaper, between the diaper and the cover, or inside the pocket of an AI2 or just laid inside an AIO diaper.

Covers:  I've mentioned these in some of the above sections, but they are worth their own definition, I think.  These are just waterproof barriers between diapers and the rest of the world.  They come in all colors and prints and sizes and styles.  If you want to stick with all natural fibers you can use wool soakers, which are little wool shorts that go over diapers.  They're not quite as waterproof as PUL covers, but everyone I've known who used wool never went back to PUL covers.  

Other things you may want to consider in purchasing your diapers are:

Synthetic fibers or natural?  Most diapers made with natural fibers are cotton or hemp.  Hemp is heavier but more absorbent than cotton.  Cotton comes in bleached and unbleached, organic or not, and the benefit of using natural fibers is that you avoid the "polyester stink".  Polyester, after repeated use, can start to smell of ammonia, mildew or just "funky".  A vinegar soak usually cures this problem, or "stripping" the diapers by washing them with a small amount of dish soap or Calgon laundry soap.  Cotton and hemp don't do this to the same extent (but will still need to be stripped from time to time to rinse away oils that build up in the fibers, reducing absorbency).  Synthetic fibers are usually less expensive, though, and are usually just as absorbent.  They can also feel much softer than natural fibers.

How often do I want to do diaper laundry?  New babies go through a lot of diapers... up to 10 a day.  If you want to avoid having to do diaper laundry every day, every other day, etc, you need to plan accordingly.  I recommend a starting stash of about 30 diapers.  Especially when you're a new mom and need to be resting with your baby, you don't need to be worrying about diaper laundry all the time.  30 diapers allows you to do diaper laundry every second or third day and won't be so expensive as to deter you from the purchase of cloth.

Sticker shock!  I can buy a whole pack of diapers for the cost of ONE of these!  Yup.  There are some really expensive options out there.  They're nice, I'm not gonna lie.  They are the Caddies of the diaper realm.  Cloth diapering is a long-term investment.  The cost of buying disposable diapers and wipes over an average of 2 1/2 years (though many kids potty learn later than that age) is about $2000.  The cost of even the most expensive cloth diapers and wipes from birth to potty learning is about $1500, and the cheaper options run about $500, plus maybe another $200 in detergent and water to wash them.  And don't worry, you don't have to buy them all at once.  You can start out with the smaller sizes, see how you like them and then size up, spending as little as $100 for each size.  And you can be buying one or two here and there until your baby grows into the new size. 

Crash course in cloth diaper care: When you get a peed in diaper, just toss it in your diaper pail (for which you can use a cheap trash can lined with a cloth diaper pail liner).  For newborn, breastfed poop you don't even really need to rinse the diaper, although rinsing does help prevent stains.  You can buy a diaper sprayer, which hooks up to your toilet or you can dunk them.  Once baby is eating anything other than breast milk their poop changes and will need to be rinsed.  I always just scraped off what I could and washed out the rest, but rinsing really is recommended.  Eventually the poo will just come right off the diaper and they won't need to be rinsed at all, since poop evolves as babies age and becomes more "formed" and less "loose".  On laundry day, empty your stash into your washer, add a detergent that doesn't have enzymes, dyes or fragrances.  Some people use detergents like Tide and have no problems, other people experience build up and babies with diaper rash or even chemical burns when those detergents are used so go with one of the ones recommended here.  Cloth diapers do very well when they are line dried.  They last longer and the sun helps kill off any germs.  If you can't line dry, there are racks you can use indoors to air dry.  I always dried mine in the dryer and it was fine, though.

Phew!  That's a lot of information to take in.  Feel free to absorb it piecemeal.  And happy diapering!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Only Boring People are Ever Bored

How is it even possible, in this world of smart phones and free wifi and and gossip magazines thousands upon thousands of books you get to read for free at the library (and Internet access there too!) and space exploration and the thousand thousand other things that are fascinating and scintillating and titillating, is it even remotely possible for a person to ever, even for a moment, succumb to boredom?

I drove my teachers crazy in middle school.  It's all I had going for me at the time, being the obnoxious class clown with a captive audience (all of whom, I'm sure, were thoroughly sick of my jokes).  One teacher had given me detention so many times that instead of setting a time limit on it he told me "Stare at this wall until you get bored."  He checked in with me every so often.  "Are you bored yet?"  My answer?  "No."  He had been one of the first to say "Only boring people are bored," in my life and if there is one thing I was not it was boring.  In part, I was just being contrary and defiant.  Like hell I would admit to being bored, even if I had been.  But I was being truthful too.  I was writing poems in my head, classifying the color of the wall, finding patterns in the textured paint, reflecting on an emotional section of a book I was reading, thinking about all the things going on in my life, wondering what my friends and family were doing, singing myself my favorite songs.  It went on for at least 45 minutes.  Every 5 minutes he'd ask "Are you bored yet?" and I would answer "No, I think this is cerulean, this color.  Do you know the first verse of 'Californication'?"  He eventually admitted to himself, and, indirectly, to me that he was tired of being there and thought he had made his point and we left for the day, the last ones to leave the school.

And I had been staring at a boring, plain, medium blue wall in silence as punishment for squeezing in one too many puns at my teacher's expense.

What the hell excuse do any of us have for lamenting about our lack of occupied status?  If you're bored go to Wikipedia and hit "Random Article."  Learn something.  Find a subject you're interested in.  Read a book, go for a walk, count shooting stars, ponder existence or mortality or the meaning of life.  Question your religion.  Recommit yourself to your beliefs.  Wonder what it would be like to be someone very different.

Here's an idea.  Every time you're tempted to whine "I'm so bored!" donate $10 to the local library, education fund or to yourself, to buy a book.  And quit being so boring!
I found this picture on the "I fucking love science" Facebook page and the above picture at