Thursday, May 31, 2007

Masonry Heaters

I've been doing a lot of reading about things I would like to have in my "dream home" (we're hoping to build it in the next few years).

My dad mentioned these to me, and the house plan we are looking at is passive solar and has a nice big brick fireplace that fills one wall. A Masonry Heater would be perfect there.

I'd like one that looks kind of like this: but it would also have a bread baking oven on the taller side (that's the side that would be sort of in the kitchen.

Masonry Heaters are designed to burn one quick fire at very high temperatures, which keeps it very clean, then the heat is stored in the thermal mass and slowly released into the house for somewhere between 12-20 hours (I've read varying times). The Thermal mass that the heater provides will also work with the passive solar design of our house plan to absorb heat from the southern windows in the winter.

Rain Gardens

A rain garden is depressional area that is created to hold rain water and let it infiltrate into the ground rather than running off the lawn. Its planted with plants that can tolerate varying moisture conditions from very wet to very dry. The plants also have deep fibrous root systems that soak up the excess water that has been directed to the depression.

Roof downspouts can be directed into a rain garden, or it could just be a low area that your driveway drains into. Rain gardens usually have native plants, but can include non-native plants as well.

There are two main benefits that I see for having a rain garden. First, more water is absorbed through the ground, keeping pollutants out of the groundwater. Second is that a rain garden means less grass to mow and water.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Order your t-shirt now!

1) Already smarter than Bush. (On an infant's shirt)

2) 1/20/09: End of an Error!

3) That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

4) Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First

5) Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

6) You Can't Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time

7) If You Can Read This, You're Not Our President

8) Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

9) George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

10) America : One Nation, Under Surveillance

11) They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

12) Which God Do You Kill For?

13) Jail to the Chief!

14) Who Would Jesus Torture?

15) No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade?

16) Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap

17) Bad president! No Banana.

18) We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language

19) We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

20) Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Blood

21) Is It Vietnam Yet?

22) Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either

23) Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

24) You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

25) Impeach Cheney First

26) When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46/gal!

27) The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

28) 2004: Embarrassed - 2005: Horrified - 2006: Terrified

29) Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity

Monday, May 21, 2007

Urban Legends and Cookies

My mother-in-law came to visit the new baby a few weeks ago and left us a bag of homemade cookies when she went home. One kind was a chocolate peanut butter cookie (which was pretty good even though I don't like peanut butter) the other kind was what she called "Revenge Cookies" because the recipe was circulated online after a woman was tricked into paying $250.00 for it. My mother-in-law guessed it was probably not a true story, but the cookies were very tasty.

Here's the info on the "Revenge Cookie" urban legend at my favorite website

Here's the recipe if you feel so inclined. I don't think I'll ever make them since they involve grating a hershey bar (grating!). I'd also cut the recipe in half, because 112 cookies is a bit excessive.

2 C butter
4 C flour
2 tsp soda
2 C sugar
5 cups oatmeal (measure and then blend to a powder in blender)
24 oz chocolate chips
2 C brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 8 oz hershey bar, grated
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
3 C chopped nuts
2 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips, hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'd like to think he gets it from me...

Good common sense that is.

Check out my brother's recent post:

Shenpa Warrior and Global Warming

The most wonderful thing...

I tried to get a picture, but by the time I got the camera out, he was done smiling.

Yesterday was the first day that the baby has smiled in response to me talking to him. He smiled and *almost* laughed- he was trying hard. He also smiled at his oldest brother, who thought it was pretty cool and made some interesting faces trying to get him to laugh.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Authorized User

Today was my "errand running" day. The kids were at kindergarten and play group, so it was just the baby and I (which always makes for easier errand running). I stopped by my Mr.'s place of employment so he could sign a couple of checks that were made out to him so that I could deposit them. Usually, I just sign the checks and deposit them (since it's a joint account, the credit union doesn't mind (unless you are trying to deposit a tax refund check- then they get all obnoxious about it)). Today, one of the checks was a rebate check from our credit card, and I could only cash it at costco, so I figured I'd be safe and have my Mr. sign it, even though our credit card is a joint account...

They wouldn't let me cash it- even though he had already signed it and both our names were on the account. Things like that make me mad. I can understand if my name wasn't on the account, but hello!

Before I got married, I had a Discover card. When Mr. and I got married, I sent a form in to add him to my account. Guess what happened... Discover Card cancelled my account and signed us up for a new one with him as the primary account holder and me as an "authorized user". Unfortunately I hadn't memorized my old number- and didn't realize what they had done until I had been using the new card long enough that I had the number memorized- who wants to have to memorize a whole new number again.

Yes, it's true, my Mr. earns all of the money we live off of, but I'm the one who pays the bills and buys groceries and generally keeps our lives running smoothly, so I don't really think I ought to be relegated to the status of "authorized user". My Mr. (who is a smart man) agrees with me and feels appropriate outrage over the whole thing.

From now on, when we sign up for something, we're using my name first.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How much will you pay?

Several weeks ago I got an email forward from my Mr's very sweet little grandfather telling us not to buy gas yesterday (the 15th) because we were going to boycott gas that day and force prices down. My Mr's cousin hit reply-all and said "won't we just fill up on the 16th?".

Sad but true. According to today's Tribune, the "boycott" wasn't well supported... Boycotting gas stations for one day does absolutely nothing to bring the price of fuel down. Because, as my Mr's cousin said, we'd just fill up the day after.

I'd like to suggest a more effective boycott. Instead of not filling up on one specific day, how about cutting your gas consumption in half. Walk or ride your bike more. Plan trips in the car so that you can get all your errands done at once. Don't drive unless you have to. Maybe it won't do much to bring prices down (I, like Doug Wright "Don't understand the oil business..") but it will save some money.

My Mr. has been riding his bike and pulling our 5-year-old in the bike trailer every morning to go to school. I've been walking with the baby in the front-pack and the 3-year-old in the stroller, to pick him up in the afternoon. My Mr. has been riding his bike to work every day that he can (his truck is a company vehicle and sometimes they need it for work stuff). Instead of going to the store "real quick" to pick up something, I'm doing without until I have a bunch of errands to run at once- I'm hoping to limit outings like that to once a week or less.

My prediction is $4/gallon this summer. Is that enough to make you change your driving habits? (and I'm really wishing I owned a diesel or hybrid right now...)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Not one more son...

In today's Tribune (I guess the article was published on the 12th, but I read online...) there is an editorial titled Iraq is not worth the sacrifice on one more mother's child written by Kathleen Snyder. Her son was captured and executed after a January 20th attack in Karbala Iraq.

Last night my Mr. and I attended a farewell party for a family member who will be deployed soon. I fear for his safety and I am angered that he is being asked to go. We have very different views on the war and the current administration. He goes because he believes that he can make a difference, and he believes that the US has some sort of responsibility to the people there. I'm not sure exactly what he thinks that might be, and it seemed inappropriate to ask so instead, I wished him safety and said that we would have to have another party next summer, when he comes home.

I'm angry that so much is being asked of men and women and their families, for something that is so unnecessary. We were lied to about the reasons for the war, but each time a new reason is fabricated, so many choose to believe that it's a good reason. We must protect ourselves from the 9-11 terrorists, wait, no, we must stop Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, wait, no, we must secure Iraq. I don't even know what the reason currently being given for the justification of sending people to fight and be injured or killed.

Kathleen Snyder ends her editorial with this: Death on the battlefields of Iraq does not compare to World War II. The sacrifices being made by American families are not in the proud tradition of generations fighting for their country. Only when all Americans realize the horror of Iraq, realize that the situation is not going to improve, and bring all combat troops home will there be peace for my family. Not until then can the American military be rebuilt to fight the true war on terror. Stop the insanity. Stop the war. Bring our troops home to defend America.

Monday, May 14, 2007

To the women who came before...

Mothers Day 2007 is nearly over. I was gifted with paper flowers and cards, and homemade corn bread muffins. I have been thinking for a week now about my mom and what I could do for her for mothers day. Unfortunately, my good intentions kept getting pushed aside as I changed diapers, washed diapers, rinsed diapers out in toilets, picked up toys, made peanut butter sandwiches, did dishes, washed laundry, had a fish flushed down the toilet (yes, sadly, after surviving the jam incident, otto succumbed after having the entire can of fish food dumped in his bowl), and planted a garden. I'm sure there are other things in there, but I'm too tired to recall.

My gift to my mother ended up being much more last-minute than I would have liked. I picked some roses from my rosebushes and tied them with a ribbon. Then I wrote the card...

In church, the lesson in young women's was on journal writing. The lesson was a bit on the short side, so, to fill in the rest of the time, we talked about various experiences we had with journal writing. I told about my father-in-law who keeps an incredible journal and emails it weekly to the family so that we all stay up to date with their lives. Then I told about one of my prized possessions.

For Christmas in 1991 I asked my grandmother to write down the stories that I grew up hearing her and my grandfather tell about their lives. There's the story of the time my grandmother and her cousin Francis tried to make fudge, and burned it, so they buried it in the back yard so that they wouldn't get in trouble for wasting so much sugar. Then there's the story of how my grandfather got sprayed by a skunk when he was head down in a skunk hole trying to catch skunks to earn money from the skins. There's the story of how my grandfather proposed when they were in the ninth grade after he fell in love with her when he saw her playing "catch" (catcher) on the school soft ball team. She said no, but when he asked again years later, she said yes.

I've always loved my mom, and have been grateful for all the things she did for me, but it has only been since I have become a mother that I have really understood the sacrifice she made for me. She sang me to sleep many many nights, she always gave me a hug when she sent me off to elementary school. She drove me to voice lessons, soccer games, and gymnastics. I'm sure she lost patience with me sometimes, but I have very few memories of those times. It is often hard for me to be patient with my children when they say "why" a million times a day, or when they whine because they are tired or hungry. It frustrates me when they don't listen, and I have to think a lot about how my mom acted in certain situations to help me deal with my own children.

So thank you mom, for making me the person I am, and teaching me how to be the mother I am learning to be. Thank you to my grandmothers for the things they taught me, and the things they taught my parents. My grandmother, the one who wrote her stories for me back in 1991, died a few years ago. After she died, I had an intense desire to know more about her parents. What were they like, how did they influence her to make her who she was? She influenced my father, and so on, now I influence my children by the kind of person that I am, and the cycle will continue. We all influence those who come after us, so to all the women who came before, on this mothers day, Thank you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lucky Dog

When we first got our dog, a boxer, five years ago, she was really good about staying around our yard. When she got to be full-grown, she discovered she could open the gates on the fence, so we bought locks to keep in the gates. Lately, various people have been leaving the garage doors open when they go out to ride their bikes, and Taja has been running away to her friend's house. The first time it happened, the friend's human called to tell us she was there.

Today, I looked outside and saw that the doors were all open and the dog was gone. We piled in the car (interrupting the baby's lunch, so he was not pleased) and drove over to pick her up. One of these days we won't have to make the full trip, because she'll be lying dead at the side of the road. My kids do not understand what the big deal is "we can just get another dog".

Today, we arrived at her friend's house and the humans were not at home. Taja didn't let this stop her from playing with her friend- she just opened the gate and let herself in. They were having a great time. We may have to put an end to independent bike riding if the doors and gates continue to get left open...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lips Vs. Heart

A year ago, Derek at A Liberal Mormon wrote a piece on Christian Conservatives and the appearance of religion versus the actions of religion. It's an incredibly well thought out piece. One that I wish all those who love that our current president is such a religious person would read.

One of my brothers-in-law said recently that President Bush has been acting "almost prophet-like lately". This scares me. And makes me really sad. Not to speak badly about my brother-in-law. He's a wonderful, smart, funny, kind person. He just happens to have some really black and white views on politics and religion, and often combines the two. I have a hard time with his politics, but I know he feels the same way about mine. Such is life...

Anyway, take the time to read Derek's Christian Conservatives: Lips Vs. Heart post, and while you're there, look around. It's a great blog.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Letter from Moms for Clean Air

Hello Mamas-
after talking to dr. brian moench (founder of utah
physicians for a health enviroment), i have a better
sense of why wed's evening meeting in bountiful is
important for us, moms. in essence, the intermountain
power agency (IPA) is trying to finance its third
coal-fired power plant in delta by selling energy to
small out-of-state municipalities, such as wasco
county in oregon.

the reason why we need to show up at this meeting is
that this plant will be built in OUR state, WE will
suffer all of the toxic pollution consequences and
receive NONE of the energy generated, meanwhile,
orgeon gets cheap power at the expense of OUR
children's health. clearly, this is a moral and
ethical issue and as moms, we must stand up for our
children's right to breathe clean air.

the utah physicians for a healthy enviroment will be
speaking out against this proposed long-term contract
between wasco county, oregon and the intermountain
power agency at 7pm, may 9th at the west bountiful
city building (550 north 800 west): directions from
slc are as follows:

directions: going north on I-15, take the 400 north exit and go west over the highway. take
a right at the first stop sign. the city building is on your right
just after the school.

we hope to see you there -- and please spread the
word, especially to friends, familyand collegues in
the delta and bountiful area.

with warm wishes,

cherise udell
founder, utah moms for clean air

Making good use of space...

Along the freeway in the Sacramento, CA area, there are beautiful flowering bushes. At least that is my memory from the yearly trips to the northern coast. Coming home after vacation always made me realize how dry and plain the roadsides in Utah were. The plain roadsides (at least a mile or so in Kaysville) will soon take on a more interesting, and useful appearance.

From today's Salt Lake Tribune:

Seeds planted today along a strip of Interstate 15 will some day fuel state trucks and snowplows. And that will reduce the need for mowing, allow the use of less-harmful pesticides and look pretty when the summertime yellow, blue and red and flowers bloom. Utah State University and the Utah Department of Transportation are teaming up on an experiment to plant a bit more than a mile of grassy safety strips around the state with plants whose seeds can be crushed and processed into 100 percent biodiesel. UDOT will use the homegrown stuff to replace the biodiesel it already uses in state vehicles.

The idea came from Dallas Hanks, a 44-year-old biologist who is working on his doctoral degree at USU. With an initial $50,000 from UDOT, Hanks aims to prove the 2,500 miles of state-owned highway right-of-way could yield an annual average of 500,000 gallons of 100 percent biodiesel, or B100. Planting the safflower, camelina, canola and perennial flax will save about $1.6 million per year in mowing costs, UDOT officials said. They won't know, however, the total savings to the agency from the project until the first-year experiment is finished...

I hope the project is wildly successful, and is spread to more areas.

Edited to add a link to today's 5/9/07 Tribune, which has another article about the bio diesel project. USU & UDOT

Senator Bob Bennett on Health Care

It's a start. Now I just hope that some changes happen. I thought his comment about everyone being covered currently was interesting. He said that by law everyone is covered, because they can go to an emergency room and can't be denied care, but he also said that it is a stupid and expensive way of providing health care and that we can do better.

The Sky Bridge

I don't go downtown very often, so I don't have much of an emotional investment in what happens. I think that compared to the way the downtown malls were, anything would be an improvement.

I don't think a sky bridge would be the death of main street. It just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. The old malls forced everyone out onto main street to go from one to the other, and that didn't seem to help "keep main street alive".

Todays article in the Salt Lake Tribune about Rocky's Veto on the sky bridge mentioned Rocky's idea of closing main street to cars. Trax would still go through, obviously, but I think the idea bears some contemplation. The ZCMI center food court always had people in it, eating and talking (at least during my teen-age years when I was at the mall more often). Imagine if that type of atmosphere could be transferred outside. If main street was closed to traffic, and an inviting atmosphere was created to attract people, it wouldn't matter if there was a sky bridge or not, because people would want to be on main street.

I think the key here is attracting people to main street instead of trying to force them to pass through it (by doing away with the sky bridge idea) on their way to the other mall.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Blue Sky?

My parents are talking to a contractor about installing solar panels on their roof. They could power 75% of their energy usage that way. The contractor who is doing it didn't have good things to say about Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program.

Here's what my mom related to me:

Apparently Rocky Mountain Power is divided into two sections, one is directly involved with selling the power to customers, and I can't remember exactly, but I think the other one must be the power generation side. The side they present to the public and the PSC is conveniently always struggling. The profits stay in the other, more obscure side. They have lots of money, are making big profits, and keep the stock investors satisified. The really good reason for RMP to get the customers to buy "shares" of Blue Sky is that you get nothing tangible for your investment, only the good feelings of having helped make our environment more green. But they could easily build out the windmill project with other income and make their stockholders (who take real risks in investing and should get some return for it) partners instead.

You would do better to invest in the stock of companies who are working to improve our environment an at least have an opportunity to also participate in the profits.

So obviously here, the way Rocky Mountian Power is running the blue sky program is not so great, but if people just stop paying extra for the renewable energy resources, will RMP keep putting money into it or will they just let the whole thing drop? I'm feeling a bit torn, and for now will keep my 1 block of blue sky.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Utah Moms for Clean Air

From Jen's Green Journal: Did you know . . .
The air quality in the Salt Lake Valley shaves off an average of two years per person's life span?
Each red alert day is equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes? With 22 red alert days this past winter, each one of us -- including babies and children -- has had the equivalent of smoking 11 packs of cigarettes this year.

That's disgusting. I had a hard time this winter with the gross air. I hated to drive to the school to pick up my son, because that contributes to the air pollution, but I didn't want us to be out walking with the air the way it was either. We can all do little things to make a difference...

Check out Utah Moms for Clean Air to find out how you can make a difference in your neighborhood.

(I particularly like the suggestion of not letting your car idle)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

So much for food...

A few months ago, after my Mr. turned 30, our health insurance premium went up by $70/month. Now it's going up another $70. It's ridiculous, especially since I am one of the lucky ones. At least I have insurance, and can pay for it (although it's starting to hurt). We've had our current insurance for less than 3 years, and our monthly premium has nearly doubled. If this keeps up, we're not going to be able to afford it anymore.

Maybe more of us need to get angry about our lousy health care system and insist on some sort of health care reform?

Write your elected officials. Please.

(really, it's enough to make me become a one-issue voter- Barack Obama says he'll get universal healthcare going if he's elected....)