Category Archives: Facebook

Go ahead: Bite off more than you can chew.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I'm using as bun here.  I'm enormously pleased with this burger-hack.  Most people with whom I share the idea?  Not so much.  But, seriously, you should try it!!  Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I’m using as bun here. I’m enormously pleased with this burger-hack. Most people with whom I share the idea? Not so much. But, seriously, you should try it!! Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

I am still — STILL!! — working on converting an area approximately 21′ x 45′ from invasive, hard-to-kill Bermuda grass lawn into a vegetable garden.  It has occurred to me, time and again, why raised beds are so popular.  They’re a heckuva lot easier!  However, I’m looking for long-term sustainability as well as decreasing water use, and to those ends, a sunken bed is the way to go in the desert.  I already know that water drains off our property toward the to-be-garden corner.  It takes less water to hydrate sunken beds, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and the soil temp stays cooler when the top of the garden bed is at or below ground-level.

But, Lordy! is it ever hard work.

A couple of weeks ago, on my blog Facebook page, I posted:

Crap. I have just discovered that a giant section of our yard (about 15′ x 40′) is actually a stinkin’ CONCRETE SLAB, which was covered by about 4″ layer of dirt mixed with -1/4″ (“quarter minus”) granite gravel, which was topped with another 4″ or so of sod. A section of this takes up about a THIRD of my planned garden, right in the middle. This is going to take a jack hammer or a backhoe to remedy. Can you feel my disappointment? Ugh. Such a setback.

My friend Erin commented:

I love that you say “jackhammer or backhoe” instead of “smaller garden.” That’s the Karen I know and love!

This gave me much pause for thought.

She is totally right:  Downsizing due to difficulty was not an option.  This is mostly because, if I’m going to do this, it’s probably my ONE chance!  At least, it’s my one chance right now.  And, I want to do it right, if I’m going to do it at all — a maxim that was repeated ad nauseum during my childhood.  Secondly, if there is a giant chunk of concrete just below the surface of our yard, it probably shouldn’t just stay there;  it would only cause further difficulty down the line, and eventually need to be removed, anyway.  So, why not remove it now?

Note:  The bad news is, it’s still not removed.  The good news is that it is only a footer — about 18″ wide, a good, solid two feet deep, and about eight feet long.  More good news:  My husband has taken on removal of the concrete footer as his own personal mission.  More bad news:  this mission is subject to myriad other missions, currently being tackled by my husband.

But, back to my “pause for thought”:

It occurs to me that I typically bite off more than I can chew.  As a matter of course, I take on projects that are too big for myself.  I dream and plan into existence opportunities that end up being WAY more complex and time-consuming than I had envisioned.

At first, I started to chastise myself for this.

But, upon further reflection, I’ve decided that I like this God-given part of my personality, and here’s why:

I get loads more accomplished by biting off more than I can chew, than I would if I took life in reasonable mouthfuls.

I find that, as I’m in the throes of panic, feeling overwhelmed at all that’s on my plate, any number of things happen:

  1. I am compelled to study, research, and learn, to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.
  2. I am compelled to the feet of Jesus for His comfort, wisdom, and guidance.
  3. I am compelled to lean on my husband (and in increasing measure, my sons who are young men).
  4. I am compelled to ask the Body of Christ —  my local church — for help.

I don’t think that anyone would see a problem with the first item on my list.  For items #2-4, I must note that this is a good thing for me, as I tend to too much independence.  I believe that God created us to function interdependently, within our families, our communities, our churches…  We need each other.  I contribute my strength and abilities, you contribute yours, and we both end up further down the road, than had we been alone.

I could add a number of other benefits to the list above:

  • Hard work is good for you — body and soul.
  • Being productive is good for everyone around you.
  • Being able to genuinely and completely rest after a job well-done is a glorious feeling.

I’m sure there are more.  Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, if you’d like!!

So, go ahead:  Bite off more than you can chew.  Sure, you’ll have moments of feeling overwhelmed, moments of panic.  But you’ll do more, go further, and just plain ol’ bear more fruit than if you live a more reasonable life.

Why this mom of six is hardly blogging.

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children.  Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week!  But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever.  Here’s why:

  1. Time and priorities.  I love writing.  But, I also love reading.  I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook.  I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share).  I just can’t do everything, sadly.  Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out.  I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to.  So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging.  I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing.  So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
  2. The current culture of blogging.  When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”.  I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading.  In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing.  I wasn’t careful at all.  I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion.  I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words.  In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes.  However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming.  And THEN, you add Pinterest.  If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture.  So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own.  Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
  3. My mind is blank.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share…  Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!

Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:

  • We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating.  Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical.  That’s why the process is slow:  if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster.  But, we both care.   Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room.  It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.  Living Room
  • We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment.  Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand.  Oh, wait!  I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid.  It was new in the box…  So, I guess that counts as a new purchase.  So, purchase #2:  a highchair.  I can’t wait until it arrives;  baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap.  That is becoming increasingly messy.  I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive.  I struck out.  So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.   
  • Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so.  I have a few current authors that I follow;  I read everything they write.  Those tend to be dependable authors;  I like their craft of storytelling.  However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile.  I am enriched by having read that.”  Not that they’re trash;  they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound.  The book I recently finished?  Profound.  I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems.  But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction.  Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky?  Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information).  But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum.  When he finished, he handed it to me.  “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I think you’d like it.”  Which made me love him all the more…  And he was right;  I did like it.  I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling.  However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.”  It’s rather annoying.  I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction.  I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine.  And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch.  I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
  • And…  This little sweetie.  How I adore her.  She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep.  Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all.  You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned.  She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family.  Everyone is smitten, still.  She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle.  So, so perfect.  Except the sleep thing.  I’m tired.   baby Jean, in arms

JUST GROW IT!!! Big Seed Giveaway from Botanical Interests

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SEED GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES!!!!

I have deleted all the non-entry comments so as to get a more accurate count of the entries…  Just a note:  I tried to contact most folks who put all their entries in one comment to ask them to return and create multiple comments — one comment for each entry, as per the rules.  If I wasn’t able to contact you, I’m sorry!!  All winners chosen through a random number generator (from http://www.random.org).  Oldest entry is #1, newest is #323.  First selected gets first choice.  I will post both on my Facebook page and on here as I select winners.

  1. The first winner is comment #64, Melissa K!! The entry that won it was for her subscribing to the Botanical Interests newsletter. She wanted the Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit for she and her children to use in their new home! (The kit was by far the #1 choice of winners!)
  2. The second winner is comment #173, Vickie!  She said that she would like the Can You Dig It? kit as well, which was the choice of the first winner… So I have sent an e-mail out to Vickie asking her what her second choice would be.
  3. The third winner is comment #165, Cindy in GA.  She also wanted the children’s kit.  After Vickie (winner #2) chooses, Cindy will get her choice of the remaining prizes.
  4. The fourth winner is comment #303, Alex.  Alex will get whichever prize remains after Vickie and Cindy have chosen!

I WANT YOU TO GROW THINGS.

I want you to try your hand at gardening, even if gardening means putting a few seeds into a windowsill pot and hoping they sprout.

I have found that most people, when they find I love gardening, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that…”  Or, “My mother had such an amazing garden.  I wish I could…”

There are so many rewards to gardening!!  I dearly want to help you overcome the typical reasons I’ve encountered for not gardening, like…

  • Not enough space.
  • Intimidated by lack of experience.
  • “I don’t have anyone to teach me!”
  • “I know a lot of people who have tried to garden and failed.”
  • Not enough time.
  • Not enough money to invest into a garden.
  • It just seems like a huge hassle…

Honestly, I’ve had to battle my own gardening challenges and disappointments.  The home into which we moved, July 2012, has ample space for a really big garden, but we decided to prioritize remodeling the indoors before we tackle the yard.  We live on nearly half an acre, but as I recently blogged, it takes a LOT of work to prepare the soil to grow things, here in the Phoenix area.  You can’t just scatter seed and expect it to do something.

So, for the time being, I’ve resorted to container gardening.  I have some raised boxes that are currently growing some veggies and herbs, and some containers that are waiting for my indoor starts to be ready to transplant.  This almost doesn’t feel like “real” gardening to me, when my previous garden looked like this:

Garden on 69th Lane

My old garden…. I miss it…

But…  I am often encouraging friends to just grow SOMETHING.  Just try.

I want to equip you to try your hand at growing something.

I was recently thinking about how much I love Botanical Interests.  They’re a seed company whose home is just outside of Denver, Colorado.

  • They’re family-owned.
  • All of their seeds are non-GMO.
  • Many of their seeds are organic.
  • Many of their seeds are heirloom (Meaning you can collect, save, and re-plant the seeds from the veggies you grew from the originally-purchased seeds.  With hybrids, this is not possible.  Being the cheapskate that I am, I save as many seeds as I can, though I have much to learn about seed-saving!!)
  • I love that I can find Botanical Interests’ seeds locally.
  • They have fabulous customer service.
  • The art on their seed packets is gorgeous.
  • The information on their seed packets is second-to-none:  It is detailed, helpful, and educational.
  • I love that their seeds are reasonably priced, even the organic ones.

Having a wee bit of a brainstorm after not winning this giveaway, I thought that perhaps Botanical Interests would sponsor a seed giveaway on MY blog.  Happily, they quickly agreed!  In fact, they agreed to a BIG seed giveaway!!

There are FOUR separate prizes which will go to four winners and TEN ways you can enter.  Yes, you can enter ten separate times.  But, you can only win one prize.

First, the prizes (click on the titles for more information from Botanical Interests):

  1. Can You Dig It?  Children’s Gardening Kit.  This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers.  The seed packets included in this collection are:  Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop.  This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers!  You and your children can learn together!!

    Can You Dig It? Kit

    Can You Dig It? Kit

  2. Water-Wise Flower Mix Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials.  It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose.  Retail value:  $9.98.

    Water-Wise Mix

    Water-Wise Mix

  3. Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces.  Included are:  Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush.

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

  4. Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area.  With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting.  Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant!  Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded:  You plant them directly into the soil of your garden;  no need for starting them indoors.  Included in this package are:  Organic Greek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choy, Spacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes.  (Approximate retail value $23.00.)

    Tatuma Calabacita -- this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

    Tatuma Calabacita — this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

Now… here are the TEN DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN ENTER!  Please leave ONE comment for each entry.  Yes, that means you may end up leaving a whole bunch of comments.  That’s OK.  There is no maximum number of times to enter;  I would be tickled if you did every single thing on the list.  Also, if the entry requires you to take some action, do it BEFORE you comment.  In each comment, tell me what you did.

  1. Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
  2. Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
  3. Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
  4. Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile.  (Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
  5. Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page — other than your personal profile (for instance, if you own a company, or have a blog, or moderate a group that has its own Facebook page).
  6. Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
  7. Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
  8. Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
  9. Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
  10. Subscribe to Botanical Interests’ eNewsletter.  (Enter your e-mail address in the box on the right-hand side of Botanical Interests’ home page.)

Contest ends at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
Four winners will be selected at random on Thursday, February 14.  I will contact the winners by e-mail, so make sure you include a valid e-mail in your comment registration.  First selected will have first choice, second will have second, and so on.
If winners do not respond within three days, I will select a new winner (or winners) at my discretion.  All prizes will be awarded.
Giveaway open to legal United States residents aged 18 and over.
Odds of winning depend on how many entries are received.
Winners agree to have their first names and locations published here on Only Sometimes Clever.
This contest is being sponsored by Botanical Interests, and the prizes provided by their generosity.  However, I am not being compensated for this in any way!!  It really is because I want you to GROW SOMETHING!!!

Sponsored by Botanical Interests, Inc.  660 Compton St., Broomfield, Colorado, 80020

CSAs, city ordinances, and scary neighbors, oh my!

Looks pretty good from the air, doesn’t it? Though this is Phoenix, it isn’t actually my neighborhood…. Not even close.

I tend to shy from endeavors that require me to be consistently organized.  It’s not in my nature.  It stresses me out.  I’m MUCH better-organized that I used to be;  it’s a necessity if you have five children and homeschool;  homeschooling requires at least a modicum of organization.  But, in general, I know my limits, and I don’t willingly volunteer for something that taxes my shaky organizational skills.

However, if you follow OSC on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my offer for you to join a Community Supported Agriculture — CSA — pickup that I’m hosting at my house.  This is something new for me;  I’ve never done anything like that before, where I am the point man.  Point woman.  Whatever.

In spite of my flaws, I decided to embark this adventure because:

  1. The CSA with which I have been a member for two years is now defunct, because the farmer needs back surgery.  That’s one of the dangers of buying your produce from one farmer!  If she’s down for the count, the food supply ends.  Not to sound callous about it;  I’m very sad for her.  We’ve developed a nice relationship and it hits me in the heart that she is in pain, and that her dream of being a direct-to-consumer farmer has gone up in smoke.  But in my everyday reality, her ceasing to function as a farmer means that I need a different source for my veggies.  If I want know who is growing my produce — which I do — I needed to find a different farmer.
  2. There are a number of CSAs and similar opportunities around Phoenix.  However, I wanted one whose cost was reasonable, and whose pickup location was near to me.  There weren’t any who met that criteria.  However, one farm — Crooked Sky Farms — had a number of people interested in joining a farm share in my area — many of whom had participated in times past — but no one currently acting as a coordinator.
  3. If I agreed to be a coordinator, I would get lots of veggies for myself.  AAALLLLLLLLLL for myself.  About $40 worth of organic vegetables for “free” every week, to use to my heart’s content — with which to cook, to experiment, to preserve….  As someone who is constantly trying to trim the grocery budget, yet eat in an ever-increasingly healthy manner, this was VERY appealing to me.
  4. I really do want to equip others to eat better.  Food matters. Food is intricately connected to our health.  If we eat better, our health will be better;  it’s that simple.  Healthier individuals make for a healthier society.  I’m interested in having a healthier society than we currently do, here in the United States.  We can’t get there without baby steps.  Eating organic is both an individual baby step and a societal baby step.
  5. Farmers matter.  Crooked Sky is single-farmer run, and employs 15 people or so.  Small business matters.  Small business DONE WELL is important to the economic strength of a community.
  6. How we treat the earth matters.  How food is produced matters.   Farming in particular, when done badly, is a tremendous source of soil depletion and pollution.  When done right, it is a tremendous source of soil enhancement.  Done right, farming IMPROVES the land.  Crooked Sky Farms won a local award for the best organic farm of 2012.
  7. With my two years’ experience of CSA participation, I had already decided that if I switched CSAs, I would prefer to join one that was just a little larger, still owned and run by one farmer, but with a little more diversity…  I mean…  if there’s a drought (which is likely!) or one planting utterly fails due to soil organisms (which is likely!) if the farmer has only 3-4 other veggies going at the same time, my share is likely to be sparse.  But, if the farmer has 30-40 things growing simultaneously, if one crop fails, I probably wouldn’t even know about it!  Farmer Frank Martin with Crooked Sky runs about six fields in the Phoenix area — mostly urban infill projects (which also delights me) — and has a few more further south in Arizona.  A diversity of locations means that all of his eggs aren’t in one basket, so to speak.
  8. If I hosted the pick-up at my own home, that would mean I could — duh! — stay at home, which is easier for me.  I really try to minimize the number of times, weekly, that I have to leave.  Going places simply takes a lot of time.  I figure that even if there are people filtering through my home for 2-3 hours on a weekly afternoon, I can still prep dinner, answer kids’ questions, and otherwise attend to my home and family, which would not be possible if I was camped in a parking lot somewhere, waiting for folks to come pick up their produce.

Given that preponderance of good reasons to join the Crooked Sky CSA, I was willing to immediately jump in with both feet as a coordinator.  My husband, though, cautioned me with a, “Whoa, girl!” and suggested that I contact our city to ensure that hosting an in-home pickup wouldn’t be violating any city ordinances.

Grrr….

The reason behind his suggestion is that, well, my hubby is a by-the-book kind of guy.  Additionally, we knew that one of our neighbors had already brought a lawsuit against another neighbor for an illegal in-home business.

Even though I could see the wisdom in making sure I was covered by the City of Glendale, I wasn’t thrilled about doing so;  bureaucratic hoops through which I need to jump annoy the snot out of me.  They’re difficult to unravel and time-consuming.  Half the time, they don’t even make sense!

All of this proved to be true.

It was difficult to even FIND the right person to whom I should talk.  Then, the initial response from that city employee was that I would have to obtain a Conditional Use Permit to allow a business to function out of my home.  To do this, a city employee would be assigned to me to help me walk through the process, then I would have to attend an evening hearing during a city zoning meeting.  Well, all right…. I would do it.  THEN, the employee told me that the fee for this process is $1,086.  WHAT?????  

Clearly, it made no sense for me to have to fork over that kind of dough for an enterprise for which I would be making basically no money.  I see it more as a community service, rather than a home business.  I do benefit from hosting the pick-up at my home, but it’s not really a money-making enterprise.

I appealed to my contact person at the City.  She said she would “go to bat” for me at a weekly meeting where these matters were discussed.

When she called me back about a week later, the news was GOOD!!  I did not have to obtain a permit!!

I squealed.

However, she did tell me that though the City decided that what I was doing did NOT constitute an in-home business, that “there’s no problem until there is a problem.”  In other words, if a neighbor decided that they were tired of the extra traffic, they could call and report me to the City and then I probably would have to obtain a permit to continue.  She advised me to contact all my neighbors and tell them in advance what I’m planning to do.  I had already thought about that, but had sort of been dragging my feet, especially as I knew at least one neighbor was quite litigious, and we only really know two other neighbors  on our street.

But, what had to be done had to be done.  So, I printed up my CSA FAQ sheet, the CSA contract (in case anyone wanted to join), and a cover letter to give, in an envelope, to each neighbor.  And, on Saturday, I went a-knockin’.  I planned to visit 13 houses:  the house directly across the street from us, plus the three houses to the east, the three to the west, on both the north and south sides of the street.  Fiala and Wesley went with me for about half of the visits.  I had to do it in sections, as talking to neighbors is pretty time-consuming!  I did get it all done in one day, though.  Of the 13 neighbors, I talked with nine of them in person;  for only four did I have to simply leave the envelope half-tucked under the front door mat.  I thought that was pretty good results.  Most of the people with whom I spoke I’d never met before!

Things I learned:

  1. I have some really great neighbors.
  2. My kids were hoping I’d discover some children…  Only one:  a ten-year-old girl, previously unknown to us.
  3. The litigious neighbor of whom I was a little afraid… well, he wasn’t home.  I met his wife for the first time, and she was LOVELY.  She was also from a family of six children, and thought it was wonderful that I was expecting my sixth.  She invited me into her home, which smelled amazing — chili simmering on the stove! — and we had a wonderful chat.
  4. Turns out another neighbor has five chickens, which I didn’t know.  They can’t eat all the eggs — five per day, and there’s just the two of them, an older couple.  She sent me home with a dozen eggs, and the husband said he would love to give me some pointers about raising backyard poultry as he has been doing it for years.  (They have lived in their home for 35 years!)
  5. Another neighbor, whose grapefruit tree’s branches are dripping with uneaten, ripe grapefruit said we could come pick them at any time!
  6. Another neighbor is a fifth-generation Arizonan, which is incredible.  My husband is 3rd-generation, and most folks’ jaws drop at that — that his grandfather came here in the 1930s.  This neighbor and I chatted for quite a while about our disdain of Walmart (but how we both find ourselves there more frequently than we care to admit!), and our love of gardening.  Her husband is using what used to be a fenced-in dog run as a fenced-in garden.  It’s not quite up and running yet, but that’s her plan, which I thought was great.  We also lamented about how we are so close to the area where the land is irrigated, and how we’d both love to live on the irrigated properties, but just can’t afford it (yet!).  One day, perhaps…
  7. One family on our street is from Bosnia.  It’s a four-generation household.  I think that’s wonderful.
  8. I learned some things about our next-door neighbor, the neighbors whom we know best… that they eat almost-all organic, that they use herbs as medicine as much as possible, and that they have a fledgling garden (the garden part, I did know already), and that they compost…  Hmmm…. sounds familiar!!!
  9. All of my neighbors were unfailingly friendly and encouraging, and said that they didn’t care a hoot about an increase of traffic along our street on Wednesday afternoons.  A couple of different people did thank me for informing them, saying something to the effect of, “It’s the not-knowing that would bother me, wondering about why all the cars were there, and what they were doing…”

I do still worry a bit about the folks with whom I was unable to speak directly.  But, over all, I would say that the endeavor was much more successful than I anticipated.  And I feel wonderfully having met new-to-me neighbors.

Perhaps this is hard to understand in other locales, but the whole Phoenix area is SO very transient.  People move here for work, then quickly move away when they discover that the “dry heat” touted in the tourist brochures is akin to a stiff breeze blowing out from an oven.  For a good five months out of the year, it is literally so hot that most people don’t leave their homes unless they absolutely have to — straight from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned store, and home again.  It’s common for people to have NO CLUE who their neighbor is, to never meet them…  We’re used to people moving in, moving out, moving on…. and the foreclosure crisis of the last few years has only exacerbated that problem of unknowable neighbors.  I have actually dreamed of coordinating a little block party, and meeting so many people on my street kind of fires that up again…

But I think that would completely tax my organizational skills!!

OSC Facebook roundup. Here’s what you’re missing!

Do you “like” Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook?  If you do, THANK YOU!!

If you don’t, here some examples, from the last week or so, of the sorts of things I typically share over there.  Come on over and join the discussion!!

  • I have mixed feelings about Whole Foods. You walk into a store, and it’s 97% packaged, processed products. Granted, they’re sustainably produced, mostly-natural products… But their frozen section is GINORMOUS and their produce section and even fresh meat section is fairly small. And WF is **PRICEY**. Still, it fills a niche, and operates under a good model. Reading this article makes me think slightly better things about WF. Using founder Mackey’s description, I would probably call myself a “conscious capitalist” as well.
  • So… something that is a pet peeve of mine is when eBay sellers send me a message saying, “I notice you didn’t give feedback. Please correct your error and give me five stars.” I know that the seller doesn’t know me from Adam; she doesn’t know that I *DO* give feedback on most items. When I don’t, there’s usually a reason. Here’s what I wrote back to her:

    “Angela, I really liked the tops themselves; my daughter wears them and loves them.

    I do not regret the purchase. However, the reason I did NOT leave feedback was because the shipping cost ($16.70) was OUTRAGEOUS. I ship items on occasion; I know those flat-rate USPS Priority Mail shipping packages — the ones that would fit six size five tops — did NOT run you $16.70 shipping cost. Not even close. The medium flat rate box, into which these would fit with room to spare, is $11.35. The small flat rate box, in which these shirts would have fit, rolled or folded small, is $5.35. I know I would prefer to save $10+ on shipping by having my purchased folded small. I think most folks would agree. I have made MANY purchases that were jam-packed into the boxes, and that’s fine with me.

    I think it’s fairly a fairly reprehensible practice when eBay sellers have a low starting bid but pad their profits in the shipping cost.

    My max bid was your opening — $9.99. I figured that, even with the exorbitant shipping, that was still less than $5 per top, which was acceptable to me. And, I just happened to win the bid. No one bid against me; they were likely scared off by the shipping cost, as well.

    I didn’t leave feedback because, over all, I’m still happy with the purchase; I don’t see a need to penalize your business by giving you a low review, especially when it all worked out. But, neither would I give you a “five star” review when I have serious disagreements with the way you handle business.

    I hope you understand and take this into consideration for future sales; you could probably gain more customers by offering reasonable shipping costs.”

    Too snarky???? Unreasonable on my part?? Oh, well… It has been sent.

    (The purchase, by the way, was for six Gymboree tops. Two were new with tags, the other four in excellent used condition.)

  • This is great!! I love my ring sling… but after spending some time with a friend’s newborn in a Maya wrap (or similar to it), I think I need one for the new baby.
  • I have been wanting some cheesy soup… A friend sent me a recipe and it had too much cow dairy in it and looked really carb-heavy. This, though, we can do. My dairy-avoidant son can do heavy cream – no milk protein in it, just milk fat. And we could sub the Monterey Jack with Pecorino Romano (he well-tolerates sheep milk cheese). All this needs is some crumbled bacon on top! http://noblepig.com/2013/01/cheesy-buffalo-roasted-cauliflower-potato-soup/
  • I do have some old recipes posted using Butter-Flavored Crisco. I also mention that I don’t use it any longer. A reader just asked why. Here’s my response: I’ve stopped using Crisco because I’ve stopped eating (and serving anything to my family) that contains artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Butter Crisco contains artificial flavor, and the preservative TBHQ, which is actually a form of butane. It also contains mono- and di-glycerides, which (in large quantities) act as endocrine disruptors (they act as prostaglandins) and are unnaturally-derived emulsifiers. As far as ingredients go, mono- and di-glycerides aren’t HORRIBLE, but they’re definitely not a whole food. Crisco also contains trans-fats, which pretty much deposit themselves immediately into arteries and clog them. On the label, it says that there are 0 grams, but that is per 1 Tbsp serving. That means there is less than one gram per serving — about 0.5 grams, but that is still too much for me.

    My standard now is if I *CAN* avoid something that is potentially harmful for me, I will.

  • In the Phoenix area, the ONLY spot a window box really works is on an east-facing window. South or west-facing would get FRIED from about April to October. In fact, the house we moved into in July had a couple of window boxes on two south-facing windows, and they were dust. Our house has ZERO east-facing windows. None. 😦 This box is beautiful!!!
  • In a bag of maternity clothes I purchase from Craigslist was a gorgeous formal silver velvet dress – huge on me at size XL. I have a formalish event coming up in two weeks and I just realized I could alter the dress fairly easily rather than giving it away, as I had planned. I think I’ll do a before and after post on it! (The matching bolero jacket, though… much too complicated. It will just stay big.)
  • I’m not normally a fan of smoothies. I think they’re a great way to pack in an entire day’s worth of carbs into one unsatisfying meal. I just made one though… One Granny Smith apple, one unpeeled carrot, about a cup of spinach, some plain yogurt, a bit of whole milk, a couple Tbsp of hemp protein powder, couple scoops of stevia… voila! Tasted great. Still more carbs than I would pretty much ever eat for breakfast, though. (My fairly standard bkfst is 3 eggs, medium, doused liberally with Cholula.)
  • You can enter here to win a whole bunch of organic and heirloom seed packets from Botanical Interests (my fave seed company), through Miss Ladybug’s Garden. http://www.missladybugsgarden.com/1/post/2013/01/botanical-interests-heirloom-organic-seed-bank-giveaway.html

 

 

 

 

 

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