Monday, April 30, 2007

Garden for your Health

I swear, gardening is the best exercise. I exercise for a specific reason - to shrink my belly and stay in my clothes. If I don't see results in a week, I lose interest and eventually quit when something else comes up.

But with gardening - well, you may not see results in your physique (and I haven't) but you definitely see results in your garden. I'm happy to report that one bed is 95% Johnsongrass free. I flat ran out of steam before I could get that last little bit.

Of course, the bad part is that this leaves my compost pile (and I do mean pile) exposed to the view of anyone driving down the alley (see completely off topic rant below). Mr. Gaia decided that the boxes our salad comes in decompose, so we should compost them. We store the compost in them in the kitchen and when they get full or stinky (or fruitflies) we just take the whole thing to the pile and leave it there. Now, in theory, this is a good idea. In practice? Yeah. The plastic (made from veggie starch, supposedly) doesn't decompose in anything resembling a halfway timely manner. So my compost pile looks extremely trashy. So I foresee a few days with a garden fork mashing and crushing and somehow making them hide.

Okay, now for my completely off topic rant. People are such assholes. Apparently the people on the corner are moving out or moving in. The CORNER - which means they can park any number of places. They decide to park a huge minivan (and really, it was the biggest minivan I have ever seen) about 2 feet from the curb and about six inches encroaching on our alley, on the other side, they parked a truck, so you had to pull all the way into the traffic lane, no driving on the shoulder to merge into traffic. I literally could not see around it to get out of my alley this morning. I tried inching out and almost got hit many, many times. I could see a huge group of people on the other side of the moving van (in the driveway), so I roll down my window and yell, very loudly, "Could you please help me get out, you're blocking the sightlines". They ignored me. I yelled louder, I see feet turn toward my car and then I hear laughter. Assholes. I should have called the cops. I ended up having to back down the alley to my driveway (there was one a little closer than my house, but not enough for me to be rude enough to use their driveway) and then go down the alley the other way and get caught in traffic there. I started out being early for work, I ended up late, this added about 7 minutes to my 7 minute commute.

And the kicker? We have trash cans to serve 4 homes. They filled their can and now have filled our can. I actually saw him wheeling a kitchen can down the alley looking for a can he could use. Now, we're pretty loose with our cans, if one is full, sure you can add a bag or two to another can, but you just don't fill it up. You just don't. When Mr. Gaia took our one small bag out (it was starting to smell) he had to walk down 2 trash cans to find one empty enough to put it in. So, they fill our garbage cans and they block our alley. I hope they are moving out because if they are moving in, this does not bode well.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gratitude Post

It's been a while since I did a gratitude post, so here goes.

I am grateful for:

1) Mr. Gaia who did paint the front of the house while I slept in. I love it. It's a bit lighter than I really wanted, but I still love it.

2) Hyperion who is turning into a great little helper. He helped scrub the house and paint.

3) Oceanus who knows how to have fun and rope everyone else in with him. He got us all involved in playing mini-soccer (I have no idea if that's an actual game, but we use a mini soccer ball and a very small goal).

4) Beautiful weather that has enabled us to paint and to use the clothesline almost exclusively (Mr. Gaia feels he has to use the dryer for his work clothes).

5) Strong arms and legs to pull out the weeds (not done and not even close, but you can see the difference).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Busy Saturday

I love living in a neighborhood. Love, love, love it.

This morning, one of the kids' friends from school came over to play. They played for a couple of hours and then we walked him home and visited with his family for half an hour or so. It's so nice.

Then, we came home and started working on ... painting Chez Gaia. Right now the house is a beige brick with beige siding on the front of the house (covered by the porch) and this green-ish brown (pond scum brown) on the eaves and soffits. I've picked out what I hope is a sage green, but it looks more like it will be a bit on the mint side.

Our hope is that by using a lighter (much lighter!) color, the attic will absorb less heat and stay just a bit cooler. Of course, for the money, we would have been better off installing radiant heat barriers. But it's already too hot to consider crawling into the "attic" space.

All we've done so far is scrub the old paint with a wire brush to roughen it up and get it ready to take the new paint. We've rinsed off the dust created by that. I suspect Mr. Gaia will work on painting while I'm napping tomorrow.

While he was getting the highest spots, I worked on the beds around our trees. I cut off the root suckers, pulled out the dead leaves and weeded out the st augustine grass (a grass that is nice in the lawn, but persistant as all get out when it's in a flower bed).

Friday, April 27, 2007

April 19

I wonder if there will ever come a time when I don't get that weepy, stone in my gut feeling when I read something about April 19?

I accidently saw the memorial in OKC twice while I lived there (stupid one way streets) and both times I had to pull over because I couldn't see.

I don't see how people who live in NYC can handle it. A major part of their skyline gone. I would cry all the time.

I don't know if it's something you just deal with and accept. I mean, eventually we get used to visiting places where departed loved ones lived and which necessarily remind us of them.

Mr. Gaia's family planned a trip to the memorial and couldn't understand my issue with it. I couldn't explain it myself. They're normally very accepting, so I was a bit surprised that they had such a problem with me not going. I told them Mr. Gaia had a cellphone, he could call me when they were done and I would meet them at their next activity, but still, somehow, I was spoiling their plans. Eventually (and this is how they are so different from my own family) we worked it out and they did their thing and I met them at the end. They even agreed with me that maybe it was a tad bit too much for a new mother (Hyperion was about 18 months old at this point). The pictures of the babies, etc.

Tanya has a post up with the most gorgeous pictures. Breathtaking, really. Including one of her son at a memorial for the children of April 19.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mystery Shopping and other goals

I've been shopping for Speedmark Vision. I've done 4 shops so far - which totals $53. I have another 3 scheduled for the next week which will add $41. For a total of $94.

Through Opinion Square, I've ordered a $5 Target gift card (if you want to join, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me refer you, but it's no big deal if you don't).

Through My Points, I've ordered a $25 Target gift card (again, I'd appreciate the referral, but no biggie if you just join on your own).

I received a $15 rebate from paypal - I hesitate to count this, but I will for now.

So for now, I have a total of $98 with a guarantee of $139. It is short of my goal, but it's getting there. I've applied for 4 more mystery shops which (if I get them) would add $48 and I would top my goal. But none of them will happen before May 15.

Mr. Gaia is supposed to look into ordering the study materials to have in his office. There's some local legislation that, if passed, will greatly increase the demands for Certified Arborists. So it's a good time to get started. Of course, the city with the pending legislation is 4o miles away, so it is farther than I want to travel.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I've been trying to get rid of johnsongrass. I swear I had it gone last year, but it's back and stronger than ever this year. I suspect I missed a bunch because I just didn't want to see it. And now I'm paying the price.

I'm organic (and making every day Earth Day), so I don't want to spray anyway. Plus, I won't use a Monsanto product even if they paid me, so that leaves out round-up and many other common herbicides. But I started doing some research on how to control and eradicate it and found that it is rapidly becoming resistant to many common herbicides. So even if I wanted to spray, and didn't mind that it might kill all my plants, it might not do much good anyway.

My legs and hands are so sore. Even with gloves, I'm getting friction spots on my hands. My calves are cramping all night long and yet I've only cleared about 1/4 of what I have to clear. Sooo frustrating.

The good part of all this is that I feel like I'm burning some extra calories.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No More Soccer!! (for the season)

Soccer is over for the season. They've played their last games, they've had their end of season parties, they've gotten their medals.

Hyperion so wants to play again next year. His team ended up really small - about 5 kids would show up at a time - so he got to play A LOT. I can really see a huge improvement. He's much more focused when he's playing the game. He's starting to think ahead and plan ahead and know where the ball will go and be.

Oceanus says he doesn't want to play again next year. I think it's because he thinks his friend is going to be on a more elite team and he doesn't think he'll make the cut. It doesn't matter how much I encourage him and tell him he was one of the better players, he doesn't think he'd make the cut. I did pass on comments from the other parents that he was the most improved player this year, but I suspect he's a lot like me and thinks that means that he was really bad to begin with and now is only marginally bad.

I'm in the position of making the decision of "do I let my child quit, or do I push him to do something that he could enjoy and be fairly good at, if he'd only let himself?" He'll never be a star and probably won't even make the high school team, but he's pretty good for his age. And if we continue to live in this area, knowing how to play soccer will be important. Here, kids don't have pick-up baseball and football games like they did when we were kids, they have pick-up soccer games.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Towards Energy Self-sufficiency

We did it. We ordered our Global Sun Oven tonight. This is - officially - our anniversary gift to each other. The hope is that when summer and 90+F temps come, we'll continue to bake bread. The fear, as always, is that we will feel the major heat and say "I don't want to make the house even hotter!"
Plus! This means we will use less energy to cool our house. Less energy to bake bread and less energy to cool the house? Maybe our summer electric bills won't be sky-high this summer.
This is part of our effort to "make every day Earth Day". I know it's a very trite phrase, but it's one my kids can understand and internalize. They did a very good job of explaning Earth Day yesterday and knew exactly why we were planting a tree and a rose bush. They were even able to list some of the benefits of green plants.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

One last tip from Stonyfield Farm

Find a
Farmer’s Market near you.
Join a
Community Supported Agriculture project. Local Harvest can help you find locally grown organic food.CONSIDER ORGANICS
Learn about the
National Organic Program.
Stay on top of news from and about the organics industry, visit the
Organic Trade Association.
Learn what the EPA has to say about pesticides in your food.
Find suggestions for sustainable agriculture, and controlling pesticide use in the home at the
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
Learn what Genetically Modified Organisms--
GMO -- can mean to you and your family.
Join the campaign to require GMO labeling in the United States.

So for Earth Day we planted a tree (a Satsuma Mandarin) and a rose (Peace). We went to the library (rather than buying new books) and shopped for organic groceries. We had planned to take our plastic grocery bags back for recycling but had a minor issue with the vehicle (not driving would have been even more environmentally friendly, but I had a mystery shop at the grocery store which was too far away for walking) and ended up having to leave it at the library while we walked home and got the other car (it was just a battery malfunction, I'm happy to report it is now running fine).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Countdown to Earthday

Again, from Stonyfield Farms

Determine whether your home poses a health risk for your children by assessing the chemicals you may have around the house. The Children’s Health Environmental Coalition pages include information on safe household cleaning products, a
healthy house quiz, and a list of chemicals commonly found around the house.
Take the
virtual tour of your house at The EPA, with its web resources on household chemicals of your house.
Keep pests out of your home garden without resorting to toxic chemicals.
organic gardening. Organic gardening requires home composting. Here are fact sheets with all the basics—one from Ohio and one from Cornell University.

Several years ago, before we had kids, Mr. Gaia and I switched to using baking soda and vinegar almost exclusively for cleaning. We do still use laundry detergent and dish detergent, but we've committed to cutting back on that too. Looking for houses without carpets have probably done the most for helping us to stay committed to no harsh chemicals.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Countdown to Earth Day

As usual, from Stonyfield farm

Choosing Organic Food
Buying organic is one way we can leave a better world to future generations. Organic refers to the way food is grown and processed. It is an ecological system that relies on healthy rich soil to produce plants that resist pests and diseases.
Organic farming prohibits the use of toxic and persistent chemicals in favor of cutting-edge practices that work with nature, instead of against it, such as crop rotation, cover crop planting, beneficial insect release, and composting.
Organic farming can be catalyst for rural economic development by offering an alternative market where small farmers can receive a premium for their crops.
Pesticide use in the U.S. has increased ten-fold from 1945 to 1989, yet total crop loss from pests nearly doubled in that period from 7% to 13%.
By refraining from using toxic chemicals, organic farmers may contribute to the survival of populations of songbirds, bees, fish, bald eagles, wetlands species, and many other species that have been hurt by chemicals in the environment.
Since organic practices prohibit the use of toxic and persistent chemicals, there is no risk of pesticide-contaminated water sources.
Organic is one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry. With annual sales of about $6.6 billion, and growth rates of at least 20% annually throughout the 1990's, there's no slow down in sight. As more companies produce it and more stores sell it, buying organic is becoming one of the easiest and most valuable things we can do to reduce the
impact that food has on our world.
- To learn more about organic, click
here.- To learn more about organic farming methods, click here.- To find out about organic options in your state, click here.- To understand the labeling of organic food, click here.- For the latest news on organic food, click here, here and here.- To see what you and your family should know about pesticides on food, click here, and here.- To learn more about the danger that pesticides pose for children, click here.- For more information on pesticides, check out EPA, NCAP, NCAMP and Panna.

We buy organic whenever we can. We do pay a lot more for it and I'm grateful we can afford it. For people who can't afford it, a good resource for veggies is local farmers' markets (which we don't have here, unfortunately). If you live in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Coop is a great source.

I've found that organic gardening is actually much less expensive than conventional gardening. It does require a little more work, but really not that much more. What it does take more of, is acceptance of "blemishes". You won't necessarily have perfect lettuce with no bug holes. These things don't affect the flavor at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Difficult Day

April 19, 1995

I was in college at Stillwater. It was a Wednesday, so I had lecture classes. Mr. Gaia and I had a break at the same time and we would meet in our department's student lounge for lunch. We walked in to hear students upset. They were being more racist than normal and using slurs I had never heard before (yes I was sheltered). I heard "sand ni----" "rag-head" "camel jockeys". Once we got people to shut up and tell us what happened, we were staggered.

Oklahoma is a small state. It's a small-town state. A bombing of that magnitude was sure to touch us in some way.

The next two weeks are still a blur. We were finishing the last minute plans for our wedding in 2.5 weeks, we were studying for finals, we were trying to finish our senior capstone project, we were packing up our apartment to move right after our wedding.

Every day the school paper printed stories of people who had lost family members in the bombing. I watched the news every minute I wasn't in class. I cried daily. I sank into a depression that lasted for months.

Mr. Gaia and I were lucky. We didn't lose any family members or friends. Even now, we only know a few people who did lose family members and friends.

It's been 12 years. I look at my kids and I hug them even closer and remember all the babies who didn't get to live this long. I think of all the parents who lost their babies much too early. I'm not sure if I'll ever write April 19 without remembering those babies. 9/11 is our national tragedy. April 19 is our personal tragedy.

Countdown to Earthday

Again from Stonyfield Farms

Clean power -- energy for our homes, vehicles, businesses, and schools –- doesn’t require polluting fossil sources to make it or replace it. By buying clean energy, you encourage local utilities to build more solar panels, wind farms, and other clean-energy resources -- and to cut back burning fuels that contribute to climate change.
There are two easy ways to get clean power:
A. Buy clean power from your local utility. Click on the map below to see if your utility offers a clean power program. If they don’t have one, demand that they do! And be advised that while some utilities do offer clean energy, it’s a time-consuming process. Rest assured---you can always return to this page and opt for Plan B, if that’s more to your liking.
B. Invest in clean power by buying CoolWatts. You can “green up” your power use -- at home, at work, or on the road -- for just a few dollars a month. To learn more,
Click Here.

This is next on our list. The electric rates in Texas are sky-high, but surprisingly we can get green energy for less than our current rate. If you do have a choice, you might be surprised that it isn't as expensive as you might think.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Countdown to Earthday

(Again, tip from Stonyfield Farms)

Convince your employer to try
Commuter Choice, a group funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to help company’s solve the transportation and commuting problems or their workforce. The site contains resources for commuters in some of the nation’s most congested areas.
Calculate the
cost of the fuel you’re using in your car and compare fuel efficiencies of the cars on the market to help you make an informed car purchase.
Check out this list of the “greenest” cars on the market at
telecommuting to save time, energy and money.

The plan is that when my car craps out (or when we save the money) I will buy a little scooter. My commute is 2 miles (give or take, depending upon what errands I need to run) all on neighborhood streets. It's just a tad too far to walk, but it seems silly to drive. I can't bike there because it's an office and I'm expected to wear business clothes. So a scooter seems the best idea.

Whenever I get tired of my job, I remember that one of the benefits is how close it is to home. A different job would most likely require a much longer commute.

A tip I wish more people would consider here is walking the kids to school. We live half a mile from the school. It takes 10 minutes to walk it with the kids. We're getting good exercise and not using fuel. Most people literally live within 1 mile of the school. I've seen people drive 3 blocks to pick up their kids from the school. Yes, it's hot, but it's not that hot.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Countdown to Earth Day

Sunday is Earth Day. So, in preparation for that, I'm going to (try to) count down to Earth Day with a daily tip to help the environment. Because I'm feeling extremely uncreative, I'm going to borrow these from Stonyfield Yogurt.

Tip 1:
Read up on
energy efficiency and renewable energy with fact sheets from the U..S. Department of Energy.
Conduct a do-it-yourself
home energy audit, with information on how to make your home more energy efficient and the profitability of making energy upgrades.
Energy Savers
Evaluate your
home’s energy usage with the tools available in this Energy Department website.
Compare and contrast homes appliances and learn about home improvements at
Energy Star, a government-backed program that can help you choose appliances and other home improvements based on their energy efficiency. In 2004, enough power was saved through Energy Star efforts to power 24 million homes, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by the equivalent of 20 million cars, and saved $10 billion.

The things we have done include growing used to warmer temperatures. We slowly bumped up our thermostat until we had it as high as it would go (88F) for a good portion of the day. The programmable thermostat we have really helps, we can set it to be 84 during the evening when we're all home, eating supper and being active. Then gradually go up when it's time to go to bed. We are lucky that our climate is such that it gets much cooler at night, even in the hottest days of summer, so most nights we can turn the AC off completely and open the windows and use fans.

Of course, the clothesline makes the list. This did require getting used to stiffer clothes and planning ahead. It takes longer to do the laundry when you don't use a dryer (well, most of the time, on the hot windy days I find that the clothes on the clothesline dry in less than an hour - the amount of time they would take in the dryer).

We do buy energy star appliances, but most of our current appliances were in the house when we bought it. We'll replace them with energy star when we get the chance. We plan to replace our current water heater with an on-demand heater. We'll replace the stove with a gas stove when we replace it. For our anniversary, we plan to buy a solar oven, probably this one.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Here is where I was going to talk about gardening and hanging clothes on the clothesline, but Grace beat me to it and I don't want to look like a copy-cat.

So, ummm, what to talk about?

Shall I rant about TAKS and how it is reducing Oceanus (my GT kid) to a sniveling pile of insecurity? Nah, that's just too painful to talk about. It will be over after tomorrow, until next year.

I can brag on Hyperion. We got his progress report and he is thisclose to making the all A honor roll and his behavior has been amazing lately (even at home). Both kids won their soccer games and Hyperion was really focused during the game.

One last soccer game. Tonight was the last practice and Saturday is the last game. Until fall. I am so ready for the break. I skipped practice last night to finish some weeding and get a nap.

I finally did my taxes. I used TaxACT and filed for free. I hope it goes through fine. We owed this year, so I'm afraid that it won't go through and we'll be hit with penalties.

My TV is in Texas, so maybe it will be delivered tomorrow. That would be nice. The Wii has been signaling new messages for days now (it glows blue and is really freaky to see), so I'm ready to get it hooked to a TV and have the messages reviewed.

I'm trying to eat less candy. My plan is to do house or yard work whenever I get a candy craving. We'll see how long it lasts. Tonight I ate leftovers rather than candy, so maybe I'll kick my sugar addiction (if you don't count the sweet tea).

Okay, was this random enough? Sheesh.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Stepping out of my comfort zone

I've always been socially awkward. I tend to say the wrong thing and to be unable to let silences happen. I'm the one always trying to get conversation going. Sometimes I'm successful, I've gotten pretty good a pairing people at parties (not my parties, I don't give parties, but kids' birthday parties), introducing people who will have interesting conversations, but when I fail? Yeah, it's not so pretty.

So, I was invited to a margarita night the other day. Ordinarily I make excuses, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and agreed to go.

It was at one of the mother's homes. She invited the kids and she lives in the neighborhood (about 7 blocks away). So I take my boys and I go. They had a ball, I had a ball. Mr. Gaia had to call to drag us away at 10:00 - the boys had soccer today.

I'm going to work on doing more stuff like this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I need a camera. I have one, but it eats batteries like mad, so it's like not having a camera at all.

Today I got pissed at the vine on my trellis, it grew way too fast and now it's just a mess at the top and hardly any on the trellis. So I decided to be ruthless and cut it off at the top. While doing that I managed to uncover some anoles. Poor things, they were in the middle of some lizard love.

Then being the freak I am, I ran to get my boys to show them. Okay, what kind of mom shows a 6 & 8 year old two lizards having sex? A freaky nature mom, that's who. They were interesting though, they didn't move while having sex, the male just moved her tail aside, clamped on and then they sat there.

There was another, smaller male hanging out. I don't know if he was waiting his chance or what.

I knew this was mating season for the lizards, I've been seeing them EVERYWHERE. The other day, I walked out and saw two on the siding of my soffits (which are brown). They were bright green. I walked down to look at the one that was a little lower. By the time I turned around, the other one had turned brown to match the soffit color.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April Woes

April financial showers (downturns) bring May financial flowers (upturns)? I hope so.

So this month is expensive. Income taxes, car insurance and now our television died.

I'm actually embarrassed how tied to the TV I am. I mainly use it for background noise while I'm up late. I'm only up late to have my alone time. But, the thought of being without TV bothered me enough that I made Mr. Gaia rig something so that we can watch TV. He rigged our projector (don't ask) to make a HUGE television. He's ordered a new one from Costco so that we can take back our living room from the overpowering television. For right now, we truly have a big screen TV.

Car insurance. Well, I'm actually kind of overstating it. We have Progressive and they allow you to put it on your credit card. So it will actually be due next month. By putting it on the credit card (even though we did actually have the cash) we bought another month interest free and will get some bonus cash. I love rewards cards.

Income tax. First let me say that it is great to not qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit. This is only the second year since Oceanus was born that we haven't qualified. It was nice to have it when we needed it, but it's really nice to make more money now. That said, I don't wanna send them a check that they'll use to wage war. I try to tell myself that *my* taxes go to social programs and environmental tax credits, but I'm not sure I believe it.

April feels expensive, and it is, but we're deferring a good portion of it interest free until next month.

I had to set some financial goals for April so that when the bills come due in May we'll have enough to cover it. My goals:

1) More mystery shops. They only pay about $12, but it's better than nothing.

2) Use my samples. No more buying new until all the samples are used up. I have enough samples and hotel bottles of shampoo to last at least through May.

3) Use the clothesline 100% (which has been difficult because April is proving to truly be rainy)

4) Commit to my garden. I need to go ahead and pull out the bok choy and arugula which have bolted and plant some tomatoes and peppers and okra. Yummm, fried okra - there's nothing better in the world. I have seeds for all of these. They may not be the most viable, but it only takes a few plants of each to have more than I can use.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Gotta Get Goals

I've been asked to think about my Gotta Get Goals by Jenny at Green Mommy (you can check out her goals here).

I've been thinking about this and I think my goals are fairly common.

1) Financial Independence. I read Your Money or Your Life and I really want the life they describe. The idea that I can cut my expenses and increase my income so that at some point my investments are creating enough income that I don't have to work unless I want to? Heaven.

2) Peace. Mr. Gaia and I have always had very different money management styles. He does research carefully and get the best deals, but in the past he would buy things we didn't need because it was a good deal. Something changed in the past year and we are beginning to actually have peace in our home.

3) Travel. I really want to travel. Last year we were blessed and my father in law invited us to join him on a trip to Mexico. He gifted us with a place to stay, meals while there and paid for most of our activities. We only had to pay for airfare for the four of us. We had such a great time together and learned so much. I really want to do this more. I want to get to Europe and Asia. Australia, New Zealand and the Galapagos.

4) Sustainability. I want to make our lifestyle sustainable. We are working towards this by making our home more energy efficient, adjusting to warmer and cooler temps (so that we don't have to run the heater or air conditioner) and buying organic foods. We don't have a large lot, but it is large enough to supply at least a fairly good portion of our vegetables, if I will just do it. Eventually we will have solar panels and perhaps mini-turbines and rain barrels.

5) Giving. I want to be able to set up a foundation that will supply solar panels and/or mini-turbines to (eventually) anyone who wants them, starting with lower-income levels. Many people down here do not have electricity at all and other people pay 25-50% of their monthly income for electricity. The plan will be to supply them with the panels/turbines and then help them use the money they save/make to increase the energy efficiency of their home.

6) A Vocation. I have a career, but it isn't my calling. I'm not sure what my calling is, but I want to find it. I don't want to wake-up at retirement age and realize that I've spent all my time working at something I didn't like because I needed money and didn't have any better ideas.

7) Learn to speak Spanish. It's embarrassing that I don't speak more than a smattering of Spanish. I hate that I'm a typical American in this way (but I do at least have my passport).

If I can accomplish these, I will look back on my life and realize that I lived a great life.

I tag Tanya and any lurkers out there (I see you, but I don't know who you are, come forward and let me know)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Real Woman meme

Tanya, the art butcher tagged me with this meme.

This is surprisingly hard. What is a Real Woman? Most days I feel like it's something I'm not.

So, here goes. To me a Real Woman:

-Isn't afraid to jump in and be physical. Whether it be helping carry heavy items or getting dirty, she knows she can do it and anyone who thinks doing so makes her less feminine can suck it.

- Isn't afraid to go after what she wants. The corner office, her own business, the "male job", etc.

- Accepts that she can't actually have it all, but figures out what is most important and manages to fit in many of the less important items.

- Isn't afraid to admit when she isn't typically feminine. If she doesn't like to shop, isn't into shoes, purses, or makeup, she isn't afraid of being judged when she admits it.

- However, a real woman doesn't judge her friends who are into the typically feminine things. If they like it, that's good enough for her.

- A real woman helps her friends be strong but isn't afraid to let them see her when she's weak.

I know there are more things I want to say and I'm not stating what I want to say as well as I would like, but my muse, she has left. I tag Jenny and Grace if they wish to be tagged.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ecotourism - Sabal Palm Sanctuary

We rarely get to play tourists in our area. Okay, let me rephrase that, I rarely get to play tourist. I never manage to have the chance to take a day off. Anyway ...

I had the day off for Good Friday and it was too cool for the beach today so Mr. Gaia suggested a trip to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Mother in law tells us that step-brother recently sent them a newsletter from their waldorf school talking about birding being the activity "progressive families" are pursuing these days. I'm assuming this is a work in progress, since I know very few kids who are capable of being quiet and still enough to see many birds. But, we're a family that figures kids won't learn without practice.

The Sanctuary is gorgeous. Sabal Palms are related to palmetto palms (found in Florida) but in the US are only native to the Rio Grande Valley and grow excrutiatingly slowly. It takes a sabal 12 years before it has even grown enough to have a trunk.

My only disappointment in the sanctuary was the large number of non-native plants. I understand that it isn't their mission to remain native only, but there were so many non-native plants that it was fairly distracting.

But, oh my was it gorgeous. I saw a green jay carrying straw for its nest. We heard and then saw a long-billed thrasher hiding in the tree top. It has a beautiful song and it is very loud. The kids never managed to see the birds (well, other than kiskadees, which are show-offs and can't manage to stay hidden no matter what), but sharp-eyed Hyperion managed to spot and point out several striped lizards (probably this) and lots of ants. He managed to spot a damselfly which was patient enough to let us examine it carefully. We also saw several dragonflies (my favorites).

Mr. Gaia got quite a few good pictures of a tepeguahe just sending out new leaves and flower buds. He also got some nice shots of the damselfly Hyperion and I examined and a butterfly that was willing to pose for a good long while. And the coolest wasp lookalike I've ever seen - it had the best colors and really did look like a wasp until you looked and realized it didn't have a "wasp waist".

I'd recommend this as a site to visit, but I warn you, you need insect repellant - the mosquitoes are quite thick.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


We went weeks without rain and finally got some this weekend. All the flowers are blooming so nicely, the trees are fully leafed out.

And the grass has sprung up. It already needed mowed, but I got lazy. I went out to work on it tonight. I only succeeded in making a couple of paths.

Reel mowers are marvelous as long as you mow regularly. I suspect I'll be burning a lot of calories this week while I work to keep the house clean for my mother-in-law and uphold my half of the mowing (Mr. Gaia does the front yard and uses the weed-eater). I have to admit, it's lazy times like this that make me wish I had a gas powered or electric mower.

Monday, April 02, 2007

First watermelon of the season

We had our first watermelon of the season. And it sucked. It was underripe and overripe at the same time. It was clearly picked too soon and then artificially ripened and it just didn't work. It's really too bad because we love watermelon in the Gaia household. We had a volunteer vine but a combination of chilly weather and too little water took it out.

I'm seriously behind on my gardening this year. My bok choi and arugula have bolted, but I haven't pulled them. They're just sitting in my garden being all yellow and white flowers. I've decided the flowers are pretty. I've also decided to let them go to seed and see if the seed will germinate. That would be really cool. Adding to the flowers in my garden is a radish that went to bloom in the compost pile. It's clearly not hot enough if the radish is surviving in the middle of the heap. Oh well, it'll eventually decompose.

My lancinato kale is still doing really well, except for the caterpillars and aphids. I need some ladybugs in the worst way. I love this kale, I had the same plants live through 17F temps and 105F temps unprotected. They eventually went to seed after about 9 months. That seed was not viable.

I seriously need to hurry up and plant my peppers and tomatoes or there will be none this year. Mr. Gaia can get free avocados fresh from the tree at work, so tomatoes and peppers are a must.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It's a new month

I never did follow up on my goals post. My plan is to become a Certifed Arborist. I have a degree in forestry and have dabbled in tree care for the last 12 years. Mr. Gaia is still in forestry and works for the government. He insists there is a market for consulting arborists in our area (2 counties making up over a million people).

I've been trying to break this down into a timeline. I looked up the testing dates, but they only go about 6 months out and I think I need more than 6 months to study.

My first step is to lay hands on the study material. It's only about $100, but I'd like to do this on the cheap, or at least as cheap as possible. I've asked Mr. Gaia to look into finding the materials cheaper - either from people who have already passed the test or maybe see if the government agency will pay for them (part of their mission is to train more qualified urban tree workers, having the study materials to become a Certified Arborist dovetails very well with that mission).

So, my first official goal is to lay hands on that by May 15. If I have to order them and pay for them myself, May 15 gives me time to earn the money by mystery shopping and doing surveys.