Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fresh ground wheat

I made bread again this week. I used our new grain mill to grind the wheat (well, Mr. Gaia did), but I don't think it was ground finely enough - the texture was more like cornmeal.

The bread simply did not rise. I'm not sure why. I proofed the yeast, so I know it was good. I used my same recipe. The only difference was the flour. I'm hoping it wasn't the flour. That would really suck. I suspect the flour was really too coarse, but I don't know that that would have made that much difference. It still tastes good, it's just a little dense.

Today, Mr. Gaia cooked salmon in the solar oven. He sprinkled just a little dill on it with some salt. It was really, really good. When he finished that, he put in bratwurst and then we went for an 12.5 mile bike ride (took an hour and twenty minutes). It was perfect when we got back. Yummy and delish.

I've been really lazy lately. My house is a mess and I don't think I met any of my June goals. Shame on me. I'll soon be traveling to pick up my kids, so the blog will be quiet. I'll be going somewhere with no internet and no cell phone service. I'll bet you didn't know such a place still existed in the US, but it does.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Normal kid?

So, Mr. Gaia bought roach traps today because I decided that I've seen just too many. I mean, it's the subtropics, so we expect roaches (call them palmetto bugs if you want but they're still roaches) but lately it's been more than even bug tolerant me can deal with.

While he was bending down to put one under the dishwasher he found a month's worth of gummy vitamins and allergy pills. We immediately knew the culprit. Hyperion. He should be grateful he is 750 miles away. Mr. Gaia was not happy.

So, I think might explain the roach explosion. Sugary vitamins? Stashed in a humid, dark place? Roach heaven!

I tried to convince Mr. Gaia that this was normal. I personally remember putting food down the air conditioner vents in our house. And lying about it. Hyperion did fess up as soon as we asked him about it - so he's clearly a better kid than me. My next step was to then throw the food into the toilet and flush it, I'm thinking I'll have to watch Hyperion take his pills from now on.

Poor Hyperion is at my mom's. With my whole family. I did call him with Mr. Gaia to talk to him about it. Then I told him that he didn't have to tell anyone and that he shouldn't. I told Oceanus not to make fun of him for it and not to bring it up. Mr. Gaia didn't understand, but when I reminded him that it's family reunion weekend (a hell I got to miss because I HAVE to be at work on Tuesday), he was contrite for not waiting until the boys are back at his mom's.

So, hiding things you don't want to ingest is normal, right? It's not just that we're really weird?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Horrifying sounds

Tanya tagged me with a meme regarding horrifying sounds.

Horrifying sounds in my life:
1) The neighbor who mows at 7am on Saturday morning and crosses over to my yard and mows extremely short.

2) The neighbor with the friend with the Harley who sits right outside my bedroom window revving the engine (I assume he's working on it?) while I'm trying to nap.

3) The 3:00 in the morning sound that indicates one of my children has just upchucked all over his bed and possibly his brother.

4) The sound of fist on flesh that indicates Hyperion has finally gotten frustrated by Oceanus' superior verbal skills and evened the score with a demonstration of his superior physical skills.

5) The sound of a body hitting the floor/wall and no more sounds.

6) A room with my boys that is strangely quiet.

7) Rattling of paper while I'm trying to watch Jon Stewart or a movie that Mr. Gaia isn't that interested in.

8) Vague scurrying sounds that indicate the cockroaches have come inside to seek shelter.

9) Any mechanical sound that is louder than a hum.

I'm sure there are more, but with the boys gone, I find my memory drowning in a sea of "I really want my boys home".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bah - dieting. Yay - South Padre Island

Dieting sucks! That's all I'm going to say on the subject.

Tonight Mr. Gaia and I took advantage of the boys being away and went to South Padre Island for dinner and a long stroll on the beach.

I love walking on the beach. We stop and watch the coquinas bury themselves back in the sand. We stop and look at little fish. I look for shells with a small hole in them (to make into jewelry, I have an idea, I just need the rest of the tools; or into christmas garland, strung on hemp). I found a perfect scallop shell (just the half).

We watch the kids running around and admire their sandcastles.

Then, as darkness falls (no sunset over the water unless you're on the Laguna side, which has no beach), we watch the crabs come out and scamper around.

All in all, we walked for at least an hour and a half.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So, I pulled out the sewing machine last night. I actually did manage to thread it and get the bobbin thread to work. I grabbed an ugly, oversized advertising t-shirt, a crayon and a shirt that fits the way I like.

I drew around the shirt I liked onto the shirt I didn't. Then I sewed zig-zag on the crayon drawing. I didn't necessarily mean to sew zig-zag, but I, um, well, I get impatient with instructions. Then I decided zig-zag isn't such a bad idea on knit. Then I figured out how to get it to stop sewing satin stitch.

The shape is fine below the armpits. From there though? The shoulders still droop on the arms and look really wrong. So I think the next step is to trace the neck line of a tank top I like and cut it out and then sew a hem there. I've been toying with the idea of using a piece of t-shirt of a contrasting color to add a little interest. I also need to shorten it by about a foot. But I'm a little shy about actually cutting the shirt, so far everything I've done is reversible.

I did find a couple of pairs of shorts at the thrift store. I realized just how much weight I've gained, though. I grabbed four pairs of shorts that should have fit and 2 pairs that should have been a little big. Yeah. The two pairs just fit and the others wouldn't close at all. My waist is still fairly trim, but my belly is getting quite large. So, I'm back to tracking my eating on fitday.

Monday, June 25, 2007


So, bowing to online peer pressure, I finally decided to learn the continental method of knitting. I have to say that it isn't as hard to learn as I had thought it would be and I think once my hand gets used to holding the yarn (and stops cramping every few minutes) I will be able to knit a lot faster.

I started knitting a bag that I wanted to look like this when I was done but I'm thinking that it just isn't going to work. I'm not sure I will get the nice neat bottom I wanted. Mr. Gaia has suggested using an embroidery hoop to give it structure. I've considered getting heavy gauge wire and making a frame out of it, but I'm not sure how that will work out.

I may just frog the whole project and make a nice hat for my mother in law (knit hats are not flattering to me, as much as I want them to be). And then I can use the pretty, soft crochet cotton for something knit for me (yes, I know crochet cotton sucks for knitting, it doesn't have enough give, but it's something I have and it is pretty and soft).

9.13 miles. I was really aiming for 10 miles, but without an odometer, it's hard to know how far I've gone. 87.1F, 69% humidity. 17.3 mph SSE winds with gusts of 25.3mph (and believe me, turning into that wind felt like hitting a brick wall, especially since I was stupid and plotted our course to have headwinds at the end).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wardrobe Refashion

Some of my favorite bloggers are doing (or have done) Wardrobe Refashion. This idea intrigues me. I've spent the whole weekend ignoring Mr. Gaia to read the archives.

They make it look so easy. I want to try sewing. I have a sewing machine in my closet that I got 12 years ago. It's been out of the box once - to make sure it worked. I don't even know how to thread it anymore.

Here are the projects I want to try:
1) Fixing a stained t-shirt that fits like a dream and is the best color for me - but it got hit by some Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream. In two spots. The main idea I've gotten it to cover the spots with embroidery - which I don't know how to do.
2) Make an a-line skirt out of a yard of remnant fabric I have. I think it would be enough for a shortish skirt and then I could crochet an edging on it (I do know how to do basic crochet). I love a-line skirts and they appear to be the most flattering for me.
3) Remake a nice heavy silk blouse that currently is just a huge square with huge sleeves. I suspect this once had shoulder pads, given the way the shoulder drapes. I think if I took it apart and then found a pattern for a fitted blouse I like, I could use the buttons and buttons holes already on the blouse and remake it from there. This would require learning to sew (I have sewn before, but it's been close to 20 years) and learning to set sleeves.
4) Take in some t-shirts to be more fitted and flattering. This appears to be the easiest remake from the comments in the archives.
5) Remake a really long unflattering skirt into a nice a-line skirt. There is so much fabric in this skirt that I think I could get a really nice twirly skirt out of it. More than the simple a-line skirt that I could do with the remnant.

I'm basically already doing the pledge. I haven't bought any new clothes (other than pajama pants) in months - just thrift store clothes. But I'm not sure I'm ready to fully take the pledge - mainly because I wouldn't be able to post refashions and currently can't do pics (I have a feeling Mr. Gaia may get me a camera for my next birthday but that's still 2 months away).

Biking - no biking today as it was raining, AGAIN! Here in the subtropics we're not sure what to think. I've seen a ton of idiots mowing their lawns today - in the rain. I guess they don't know how to handle rain and the lawn needing to be mowed. We did take a short walk, though.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

New pet

My nice co-worker brought me a rhinoceros beetle (well, it may actually be an ox beetle, but we'll call it a rhinoceros beetle). Right now it doesn't have a real habitat and it's just a lonely male. But she says she will look for an aquarium they were planning to get rid of and she will bring him a mate.

From what I can tell, it will live for about 4 months, but maybe we can manage to breed some.

He isn't eating the fruit the sites say he should eat (soft bananas, etc) but I gave him a tea bag and he went nuts. He immediately tore into it and then buried himself in the grounds. I figured that since I brew my tea with fructose, this would at least fice him an approximation of the food he normally eats. I guess he agrees. So I guess I'll need to save my tea bags and give them to him from time to time.

This will be Hyperion's new pet.

Biking -
Short ride tonight because it decided to sprinkle, only 2 miles. 79F, 69% humidity (that's according to weather underground, I would have thought it would have been more like 100% since it was sprinkling). 12.7mph, ESE winds with gusts of 20.7mph.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wisdom of our Elders

I've been reading the Foxfire books. These are again books that belong to Mr. Gaia and have sat on our shelves for years.

A lot of this stuff will probably never apply to me. I mean, do I really need to know how to butcher a hog? But it's interesting to learn.

I also found a written example of an old wives' tale I've heard all my life. "If the sun shines while it is raining, it will rain the same time tomorrow". I can't tell you how many people have laughed at me when I've said that, but now I can tell them it is in the Foxfire books and isn't just a saying from my crazy family.

Biking -
8.06 miles. 84.9F. 63% humidity. 17.3 mph SE winds with ESE gusts of 24.2 mph.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Local Food

I'm still searching for local food in our area. I think I might have located a CSA, I've sent an email for more information.

Meanwhile, when we travel to Oklahoma, we're ordering food from the Oklahoma Food Coop. Technically it's only open to Oklahoma residents, but shhhh! Actually, they know we live here in Texas, but we were in the first wave of members and we have family in Oklahoma who are willing to pick up our stuff.

Recently we ordered 75 pounds of organic wheat berries. We bought a grain mill (the nutrimill) which is electric (I would have liked one that was manual, but Mr. Gaia wanted us to be sure we'd do this before we added an extra level of effort. We have the grain mill, but won't get the wheat berries for several more weeks. Meanwhile, we might just have to grind some rice for rice flour.

There's a perennial discussion as to which is better - organic or local. Since local doesn't appear to be much of an option here, I'm going with organic as much as possible.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bug Hill update

Megan is driving me nuts. She's 13 weeks along (I seriously thought it was longer, but she brought in an ultrasound pic). So far, she's taken off work for swollen feet, possible hemorrhoids, and today gas. Yes, she left work at noon because she had gas. Had she taken anything for it? "No, I'm not sure what I can take". So call your doc and ask her. If she's actually going into the office for all these things, you know her OB is ready to scream. From what she's told us, she's had at least 6 OB visits (in 9 weeks, give or take).

Tammy Zain's husband is travelling. So if you see her out and about and she ignores you, don't take it personally. With her kids at summer camp and him gone, she's not sleeping very well. The house is "too quiet, except when it's not". All the little noises that a house makes wake her up because they're no longer just background noise to the snoring, rustling, etc in a full house.

Connie Anderson is starting to plan her mom's 60th birthday party. Theresa Maker reminded her that the "nice" restaurant in town doesn't have a kids' menu and that according to some that makes it completely unsuitable for kids. And then they had a nice belly laugh.

The First Baptist pre-teens are at summer camp for the week. It's been quiet in the town. I'm sure it's a coincidence. It's a great time to visit the municipal pool, though.

Leslie Johnson has asked that I announce that she needs volunteers for floats for the 4th of July parade. She also needs people to sing before the fireworks display and actors/readers for the town history play that will be between the parade and the fireworks display.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thrift Store shopping

There are 2 thrift stores within walking distance of my office. One is the common Salvation Army thrift store and the other benefits a local charity.

Yesterday I walked to the closest one (the local charity). My mission is to find some new shorts. I bought my current ones in 2003 and they're really showing the wear (I have 3 pairs that I rotate, which was fine when summer was about 3 months long, not so great now that summer is 9+ months long). I know exactly what I want and I've seen them at the outlet mall, but I: 1) don't want to pay full price and 2) don't want to buy new for environmental reasons.

My rules of thrift store shopping are simple:

1) It doesn't matter how cheap it is, if it is missing a button, leave it behind;

2) It must match at least one other item in my closet;

3) Dry clean only items must be really cheap so that it won't be a great loss if they are ruined when I wash them in the regular washer (which I will do); and

4) Always check for stains, holes and other imperfections.

So yesterday I was sort of successful. No shorts (they were all from the 80s - high waisted, pleated fronts, tapered legs). I found 2 blouses I liked and would definitely have worked in my wardrobe. Unfortunately both were too small (thank goodness for dressing rooms). I did end up buying a tank top with a shelf bra. These I use when I bike instead of a sports bra.

Today, I prepared to go to the Salvation Army thrift. I knew they didn't have a dressing room, so I wore a form fitting, thin top under my tunic so I could try on blouses (yes, I'm looking for shorts, but blouses never hurt). I learned a trick from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - take the waist band of the shorts/skirt/pants and wrap it around your neck, if it wraps fully around your neck, it should fit your waist.

I found a pair of shorts that aren't perfect, but are pretty good. I also found the cutest skirt, which I knew would be tight based on the neck test, but it is just a tad bit too small - I think if I lose this 5-10 pounds I'm working on, it will fit fine. Then I found 2 blouses - fitted, vertical stripes and mostly match something in my closet (if jeans count).

The only problem I have is that I need to figure out how to shorten the long sleeves of one blouse to be 3/4 sleeves. I have, apparently, freakishly long arms. It hits just above my wrist bone and just looks country bumpkin. So, if you know how to do this, let me know.

I gifted 2 dresses from my closet to a coworker. I never wear them and indeed am not even sure they would fit. She tried them on and they look 5000 times better on her than they did on me even when they did fit. I do have a hard time letting go of things. My mom bought me these dresses and I wore one of them once and never wore the other one. She got them on sale, so it wasn't something she was wanting to get me for sentimental reasons. Yet, I feel the slightest bit guilty giving away something that she bought for me.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

So with the kids out of town, we had a laid back Father's Day. Of course, it didn't help that I was thinking it was THIS weekend, not last weekend. Luckily, I had already picked up a small item to be part of a larger gift, so I had a little something to give him.

Then, we walked to the movie theatre to see "Wild Hogs". It was cute enough and there was one scene that actually made me laugh so hard I couldn't make a sound and tears ran out of my eyes.

After the movie, we walked to the restaurant to have dinner. It was a marvelous meal and I felt I really earned those calories. I didn't map our walk, but it was probably about 2.5 miles total.

I'm really missing the kids. Today Mr. Gaia received a package from them, a shirt with their handprints, little trinkets with their pics (from when they were 2-3) and homemade cards.

One thing I've noticed about the kids being gone - it's much harder to fill up a load of clothes. I finally had to give in and wash a partial load because I was out of clothes. I started throwing in pieces of random bedding to complete the load (well, it needed washed anyway and who says it has to be washed in its own load?).

Biking update -
87.1F, 67% humidity, 12.7mph SSE winds. 3.46 miles.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More cooking

So today, Mr. Gaia made more steel cut oats.

He follows the standard recipe:
1 c of oats
3 c water
pinch of salt (he never uses enough, so I add more after they're done, whole grains NEED salt).

He mixed this together and put it in our corning ware casserole pan. Then let it cook for an hour. They're yummy, nice and creamy.

Then he tried to make oven fried chicken. It wasn't bad, but I'm not a huge fan. He made 3 different kinds - one breast coated in crushed corn flakes, one coated in crushed wheat flakes (he used Uncle Sam's cereal so there were some flax seeds too) and one with just a sprinkling of corn starch. All were seasoned. He let them cook for about 30 minutes (use a meat thermometer to make sure they reach the right temperature). I think using the rack insert for our pan would have made them much better, maybe they would have had a chance to get more crispy. They didn't crisp at all placed flat on the pan.

I think tomorrow I'll try banana bread and see how that works out. But I need to bake more bread, so I'm not sure there will be time or room.

89.1F, 59% humidity, 16.1mph SE wind at the beginning. At the end, 84.9F, 67% humidity, 15mph ESE wind. We biked 5.42 miles and it took about an hour. At the end, we stopped at a Raspa (sno-cone) stand and walked the bikes the last half mile home, while we enjoyed our raspas (natural lime for me, natural mango for Mr. Gaia).

Friday, June 15, 2007

No Border Wall

Mr. Gaia brought home a bumper sticker today. "No Border Wall".

For those of you who don't live along the border, this may seem like a no brainer. Why wouldn't people want a wall?

The main reason is that this will have a devastating impact on wildlife. Many endangered species rely on being able to get to the River and have migratory routes that cross the river. The current proposal for the wall is a 2 fence wall with ALL of the vegetation removed between the fences and between the fence and the river. People who have a basic understanding of river bank maintenance will immediately see the inherent harm in this.

I don't have the right words to describe my feelings/emotions/thoughts on this, so let me refer you to some people who do: The Mex Files, Land of Enchantment, OneWorld, Desert USA.

Of course the other reason is that it simply won't work. As long as you have the conditions that are currently in Mexico, people are going to want to cross. Even our homeless live better than a good portion of the population in Mexico.

What gets me is that most of the people who want this fence have never even been to a border area. They have no idea what it's like to live here. I don't feel unsafe living here. I feel safer living here (about 10 miles from the border as the crow flies) than I did living in Oklahoma City. The school my kids attend is miles ahead of the OKC school they would have attended (and we won't even discuss how much better it is than the school I attended). Even though each grade has at least one bilingual class (where the teacher literally teaches in Spanish and English) their test scores (not the be all, end all I grant you) are better than average in Texas. This is one of the poorest counties in the US, we have tons of immigrants and still our schools are better than average.

So how do I propose to control immigration? Well, honestly, I don't. It is a non-issue for me. But for those people who are bothered by it, I offer the following two part proposal: 1) Make the fine for hiring an undocumented worker so much that it will cause a business to go out of business. The fine that was levied against WalMart ended up being so little it didn't even cause a blip on their radar screen. This is typical. 2) Make it illegal and much harder to send money to Mexico. Put restrictions on the amount of money that can be wired out of the country by any person. Yes, people can still mail cash (most won't, I promise you) and they can carry it home with them when they travel home, but if you make it harder for people to get dollars out of the US, that will remove a huge incentive.

The radical liberal in me also suggest schools in border towns that actually pay the kids to attend school. Many kids are pulled out of school and put on the street corner to beg and sell trinkets because it is much harder to US tourists to refuse them than their parents. And because the whole family has to work in order to have a bare subsistence living. Getting the Catholic church to remove their restrictions on birth control would also help.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Good Books

Back to the Damn Soil I love this book. Written by a woman describing life in WWII Tulsa County. She and her husband and three kids moved to the family farm. As far as I can tell from what I remember of Tulsa (a lovely town, really!) the farm is pretty much in the middle of a housing subdivision.

Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow A very well written book. This is the experience of a couple moving from 1980s Tulsa to the Ozarks. I think she does a marvelous job of writing about her love of the environment.

A Very Small Farm I really can't say enough wonderful things about this book. The experience of a 1990s college graduate who didn't know what to do with life so he bought a small farm in Oklahoma and lived on it. It's a nice collection of essays about how he lived his life.

Breaking the Oklahoma theme (hey, to a lot of people Oklahoma is wheat fields and empty plains, to those of us who grew up in the hills, it's a siren call):

Mountain Time: A Yellowstone Memoir Oh My GOD!!! I love this book. This has been sitting on our shelf for years. Mr. Gaia bought it before we even met. I never thought to pick it up. But once I did, I couldn't put it down. It's written in the early 1980s (so before the big fire) and I really want to have a conversation with the author to find out how the administrations since he wrote the book and especially since the fire have changed his views. This book has helped me see what I want to be when I grow up. I really want to be a park interpreter. Unfortunately, you can't support a family on the measly salary interpreters get.


84.9. 91% humidity. 10mph SE wind. 3.46 miles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goals Update

Biking - 2.45 miles. The temp was 84.9F with an 11.5mph ESE wind. Stupid me biked on a completely empty stomach. I couldn't figure out why the biking was so hard tonight. Duh!

Exercise - I've had to give up the "mountain climbing" because it hurts my back too much. I've added reverse crunches instead. So far I'm staying on top of it.

Gardening - things are getting watered and that's about it. The weeds are growing back way too quickly. I think I may have to go see the doc about my back. It hurts too much to do much gardening. I did try some mowing last night and I paid for it today.

Energy - Mr. Gaia switched us to renewable energy today. It will actually start at the end of the month.


Tanya tagged me with a Meme (I always read that as Me! Me!)

One-Word Responses
1. Where is your cell phone? desk
2. Relationship? happy
3. Your hair? pony-tailed
4. Work? exhausting
5. Your sister? nonexistant
6. Your favourite thing? nature
7. Your dream last night? forgotten
8. Your favourite drink? tea
9. Your dream car? efficient
10. The room you're in? family
11. Your shoes? off
12. Your fears? illness
13. What do you want to be in 10 years? healthy
14. Who did you hang out with this weekend? husband
15. What are you not good at? sports
16. Muffin? turnover
17. Wish list item? windows
18. Where you grew up? Oklahoma
19. The last thing you did? biked
20. What are you wearing? scant
21. What are you not wearing? lots
22. Your pet? cat
23. Your computer? essential
24. Your life? tiring
25. Your mood? ennui
26. Missing? kids
27. What are you thinking about? kids
28. Your car? aging
29. Your kitchen? ugly
30. Your summer? HOT
31. Your favourite colour? green
32. Last time you laughed? tonight
33. Last time you cried? forgotten
34. School? someday
35. Love? necessary

This was harder than I expected. I tag Rani and Grace.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fresh bread!

The solar oven bread turned out perfect, nice chewy crust and a great texture. So, here's what I did - I mixed the dough up at about 1:30am and left it in the fridge. At 7:00am, Mr. Gaia punched it down and put it in the loaf pan (he suggests making a change and letting it do both rises in the loaf pan). Mr. Gaia set up the solar oven to start gathering some heat (but he had to set it up to face west, so it wasn't that hot at noon). I came home from work at noon, put the bread fresh from the fridge in the oven (it was about 150F at that point). I left the bread in the oven until I got home at about 5:30. So it had a little over 5 hours of cooking.

My reciped adapted to be only one loaf (I think in the new loaf pans, we can get 2 loaves in, but we couldn't in the stoneware pans):

1 7/8 c water (bottled water works best if you have hard water or lots of chlorine)
1 heaping T yeast
1.5 T oil
2 1/4 t honey
2 1/4 t molasses
2 1/4 t salt
1.5-2 T flax seeds (freshly ground in a coffee grinder)
2.5 T vital wheat gluten
3-5 c whole wheat flour (I don't actually measure the flour)

Heat the water to 100-120F, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add oil, honey and molasses (a little tip - I use one the shot glass measuring cups, measuring the oil first will allow the honey and molasses to slip right on out, no sticking at all). While the yeast is proofing, grind the flax seeds (I throw the salt in with the flax to help it grind a little more finely). When the yeast has proofed, add the flax and salt. Add the vital wheat gluten. Add the flour 1/2 c at a time. I use the kitchen aid with the dough hook. I add flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and there is no dough on the side of the bowl at all. I then pull the dough off the hook, turn it over and add a little more flour. I mix until the dough is stiff and not really sticky. At this point, I take it out of the mixer, I knead it a few times just to be sure it is uniform and then put it in an oil bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Biking update -

Temp was 84F with an ESE wind of 13.8mph. We rode 2.45 miles.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Solar Oven Update No 2

It was hot today - a high of 94. So Mr. Gaia decided to cook in the solar oven. First he made brownies (yummy!), then lasagna and finally steel-cut oats.

So that whole "takes twice as long to cook" thing? Yeah, not so much if the temps are high enough. The brownies aren't nearly as moist as we like and the lasagna noodles are beyond overdone. I haven't tried the oats, yet.

It occurred to me, too late, that if the temp was boiling or above, there's no reason to think it will take twice as long. I think this will take some getting used to.

Tomorrow I plan to bake more bread. It's supposed to be 30% cloud cover tomorrow, but I think that will be fine. It's still supposed to be hot. I'll mix up the dough tonight, let it rise in the fridge overnight, then first thing in the morning, punch it down and let it rise in the breadpan in the fridge. I'll come home at noon and put it in the oven (which Mr. Gaia will set up and leave to preheat before he goes to work).

We did buy a cheap loaf pan that is dark colored and should absorb less energy from the oven (thereby letting it stay hotter to actually bake the bread).

Goals update:

We biked tonight at about 8:00. It was 83F with a SE wind of 16.1 mph. We biked 1.71 miles (according to google earth) a good portion of it facing a headwind (I'm not up on vectors enough to figure out how strong of a headwind when we were riding due east and due south).

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I hadn't been across the border to Mexico in over a year. I mean, I took a vacation to the Riviera Maya last summer, but to just go across the border? Over a year.

Mr. Gaia and I had tacos had a great little taqueria and then shopped. All we bought was the tequila for my father-in-law. I found we can only legally bring back one liter of alcohol each as Texas residents (unfair say I!).

Going into Mexico reminds me how incredibly fortunate I am. As I watched the little kids begging and peddling trinkets, I thought about my own kids. My kids who get a decent, free public education. Who will never be forced to sell little trinkets on a dusty road in torn and dirty clothes. My kids who simply by the luck of the draw, were born in a country where they will have advantages these kids will never have.

As I walked the streets, I began to think of all the illegal immigrants in the US. I can't blame them. I know that not all parts of Mexico are like border towns - some are much better and some are much worse. But for the most part, the people in Mexico can only dream of the advantages we see as part of our every day life.

Oceanus gets it on the primal level. We can't take him into the border towns with us. His sensitive soul simply can't handle it. He will sob for nights afterward - his brain returning to the poverty and sadness he saw everytime he lets his guard down.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Finally the weekend!!

It was a long week at work. One big project for one big client took most of my week. I probably spent 20-30 hours on it alone.

The rest of the time was spent trying to fill in the emergencies that were ignored while I worked on the project.

Today I spent some time cleaning my desk - filing lots and lots of documents and using windex to wash it (it was so disgusting, I found a lot of cockroach droppings - yuck!). I also tried to clear some more of the backlog. My main boss is back from vacation on Monday so I wanted to be sure to have some of his work done to show him. And failing that, have a clean, organized desk for him to see.

Tomorrow we're taking a trip into Mexico. Father-in-law has requested we bring him some tequlia when we come visit next month. As Texas residents, we can only bring one bottle across each month (other US citizens can bring two/month). Well, we can bring more but we have to pay a lot more to get it into the country.

I hope to have a relaxing weekend and get lots of sleep. Last weekend I was doing mystery shops both days. I don't have any more scheduled until next week.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I hate these decisions

All other things being equal, it is more energy efficient and environmentally sound to heat with natural gas (if you live in a state where NG exists). Living in Texas, most of our electricity comes from coal plants. I can, of course, get renewable energy through wind power, but that has its own set of problems.

So, here's the decision. My AC. I can fix the really old air exchanger in the attic for $280. I can replace it with its exact counterpart for $2000 or I can add electric heat for $2000 (different companies). OR, I can add gas heat for $3800.

Everything being equal, the gas is the better environmental choice. I have no idea how the extra materials usage will affect it (a new electric line, pipes for the gas and a vent) but it's probably negligible. I just can't justify the doubled expense considering that we will probably only run the heater for a couple of weeks each year (it's the subtropics!).

Eventually, I'd like to get my own mini turbine and some photovoltaic cells. Then, I won't feel so bad about choosing electricity over gas.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Solar oven update

So we baked bread today. Let me say that there were some limitations because the oven only holds one loaf and my recipe is for two loaves, so I had to cut it in half. This would not normally be a problem, but I mixed it up last night at 1:00am, so I suspect my math might have been off.

Mr. Gaia set the oven up about 2:00pm and it got up to around 300F. When he put the loaf (in its stoneware loaf pan - it's recommended that you use black cookware, but we don't currently have any) in the oven, the temp dropped to 250F and stayed there.

We let the loaf bake for about 3 hours (it looked done after about an hour, but food doesn't burn in the solar oven, so we left it).

The results - a smallish loaf (it could be that I didn't use enough yeast because it just didn't rise well at all) that is dense. But it is moist and tasty.

I would definitely bake bread in the solar oven again - but I would be a lot more careful about my math.

I'm especially glad we have it because our AC is broken. It waits until it's almost 100F and then breaks. Sigh. Luckily, we held onto our window unit AC and FABULOUS Mr. Gaia was able to rig it up in the bedroom today so we could at least have a cool room for sleeping (after 2 nights of 87F temps). I can't even imagine running a regular oven when the house is as hot as it is now. I doubt we will be cooking much inside until we get it fixed/replaced. Mr. Gaia grilled tonight (yummy steaks from Sun Harvest Foods along with grilled onions and grilled jalapenos stuffed with garlic cream cheese).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Solar oven cooking

Rani asked if cooking in a solar oven takes longer. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is "it depends". Generally, the oven I have (the Global Sun Oven)will not get hotter than about 350F and ours tends to hang out at about 250F (which is sufficient to cook meats and brownies). I'm thinking that if we would get it out during the hottest part of the day it would easily hit the 350F threshhold.

Mr. Gaia cooked the corn and salmon in 2 separate batches (it would have been big enough for both, but I don't think he thought of it) and it took about 2 hours long. So, probably he could have cooked both in about 1 hour.

The way the oven is made holds in the moisture (like a baking bag) and so even as food cooks for long periods of time, it doesn't dry out. We've had sausage and salmon cooked in it and they were both very tender and moist.

Wednesday is supposed to be sunny and hot (hitting 100F) so I'm going to mix up a batch of bread dough tomorrow night which Mr. Gaia will put out to bake at noon. That will mean it will cook for 4-5 hours, but the cookbooks we've looked at say that in the sun oven, this will be okay.

I'll report more after I've tried it. So far, our experiments have been successful - we've done roasted corn, sausage, salmon, roasted almonds and brownies.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


1) I miss my kids horribly and I'm rethinking letting them have a cellphone. We sent MIL's new cellphone with them on this trip and it's been nice having them call us and being able to call them whenever we wanted. Hyperion has seemed to enjoy it a lot. He's called several times just because he missed us. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not going to get them their own cellphone, but it is nice while they're traveling.

2) Tonight's dinner was roasted corn on the cob and baked salmon - both done in our solar oven. They were delish! I love the solar oven, only solar energy required, and the food is tender and moist.

3) We finally got on our bikes tonight. A very short ride - probably just a little over three-quarters of a mile, but it was enough to make my legs shake. I am so out of shape.

4) I love our grocery store. They have special combo deals that help save me money. But why, why, why did they have to pair the ice cream with the frozen pizza we buy for the boys (natural, low fat and healthful)? I now have 3 quarts of ice cream in my freezer - well 3 quarts less 4 servings. This is not going to help me to lose weight.

5) has very annoying ads, but they do have good coupons. We've been able to buy items we like to buy anyway and get the name brand for quite a bit cheaper than the store brand.

6) EVERYONE who likes Kashi products should RUN to sign up at I get the best coupons from them - buy one get one free plus a ton of $1 off coupons (which I hand out). Plus free samples! Can't beat that.

7) Postsecret always makes me think and makes me sad. I anxiously await each week's new installment and then check back several times during the week to read the comments.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's June! Time for Goals.

School's out for the summer. My kids are on their way to Camp Gaga (aka "the farm") for the month so I'm free (and missing them already).

Having them gone enables me to increase my hours at work to 40/week (normally I work 30 to work around their school schedule) and make a little extra money.

Mr. Gaia and I have talked about our June goals some. We do not plan to eat out unless I have a mystery shop or something wonderful happens. If this June is anything like last June, we'll mainly live on watermelon for our evening meal - which is a pretty inexpensive meal, all things considered.

My other goals are:

1) Stop buying snacks at work (we have a guy who comes in and sells the most delicious mexican wedding cookies),

2) Stay out of stores unless I'm mystery shopping,

3) Expand my mystery shop horizons and add a new type of shop/store. I'm not sure what this will be, but having an actual lunch hour should help,

4) Finally order my study materials for my Certified Arborist test. Mr. Gaia thinks I can pass it without studying, but I think he forgets how long it's been since I did a lot of this stuff and just how much information has been pushed out of my brain in order for me to do well at my current job,

5) Bike at least 4 nights per week, working up to 6 miles per night. We quit biking when soccer started and I can tell the difference in how my clothes fit, so it's time to get back into shape so we can bike with the boys when they come back home,

6) Start my exercise routine again. I slacked off this week because my lower back hurts so bad and I was cleaning,

7) Keep my house in its current "company clean" state and maybe even work it up to "mom clean". Not that she'll be back anytime soon, but my inlaws plan to come in August (and bring us the furniture they are storing, maybe I can finally get some furniture in my front room),

8) Use the clothesline exclusively. I broke down and used it a few times in the last couple of weeks - we had so much rain that it was hard to get anything dry and then I put off finishing the kids' laundry until about 18 hours before they wanted to leave (in my defense, they had originally planned to leave tomorrow morning and changed their minds),

9) Get the oil changed in my car (I know this should be a "to do list" item and not a goal, but I'm a horrible procrastinator).

I hope the end of June finds us healthier and wealthier.