Friday, June 29, 2012

"Oh Captain, My Captain"

My dog has been doing the most adorably depressing thing. Every afternoon, when I get home from work, she spends about half an hour sitting on the back of the couch staring out the window. She's waiting for Shane to get home.

When I put that picture on Facebook my brother said, "She's riding your couch like a captain at sea." It made me laugh, because that sort of is what she looks like. Either that, or a woman on the widow's walk looking for a ship to come home....
The cat has been taking it just as hard. Shane claims it's just because he doesn't like his routine broken up, and because Shane is no longer there to let him outside at night, but it's more than that. Zap gets super needy when Shane's not home, so I end up with two pets who feel entitled to constant attention. When I sit down to read, my lap is full of purring, grumbling creatures who demand petting.
Last night I let them out when I got home from rehearsal (more about that in a second) and when I tried to call the cat in for bedtime, the little jerk hopped the fence into the neighbor's yard and ran away. So I left him out all night. After my alarm started going off this morning, in the few minutes of snooze time when I was still dozing, I was surprised and saddened that the cat didn't come running in to say good morning the way he usually does. It wasn't until I actually woke up that I remembered he was still outside. I raced to the back door, anxious, and he was waiting there for me, very happy and relieved to be coming inside and eating breakfast. I was surprised that he wasn't yowling about being left out all night, though, and overall he seemed much calmer about it than he has in the past.
I realized that this is only Shane's second full two week shift. The others have been interrupted for one reason or another. And this time, there will be no mid-shift meeting at Silvergulch. I'm doing the summer opera and the accompanying concert and we have rehearsals every night from 7-10 through next week. Which also means that we won't get to Skype unless we specifically make time for it in the early evenings. This is going to be hard.
I can't complain about the rehearsing, though. It's fantastic to play with a group again. Really I can't even explain what a relief it is, like taking a breath of fresh air after being cooped up for a long time. It's hard work and it's exhausting, especially in a week like this one where I'm already sore and tired for various reasons. (Among them, I started biking to work again. Oh, that hill!) But it was also utterly relaxing and I was a little sad when rehearsal finished. Both the concert and the opera are totally new to me, things I've never played before. Like Mahler's 4th Symphony. It's hard, not so much the notes but the technical aspects of putting it all together, and it's the sort of piece that makes you happy to work for it.
I had planned to not really use the truck at all for the next two weeks, but I had forgotten about rehearsals. I could ride my bike with my instrument on my back, but there's not really enough time between work and sleep to get over there and back in a reasonable time. However, the truck made a decision for me. It kept lurching last night while I was driving it, and it stalled almost every time I had to stop. So now I need to consult with Shane about what we should do, and in the meantime I've arranged a carpool to rehearsals. Looks like I'll be keeping my resolution whether I want to or not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Over-scheduling and Overwhelming

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately by everything that I have to and even the things I want to do. Monday, I realized that I hadn't sat down to read since getting home from Hawaii. Since reading is my main form of relaxation, I had to think about all the ways I've been spending my time. Some of it's good great (lots of gardening, time with Shane, softball, hanging out with friends, taking the dog for a couple of walks) and pretty much all of it has been worthwhile (cleaning the apartment, shopping for necessities) but I've been neglecting myself and my me time. Relaxation is important too, so why haven't I been making time for it?
Well, I have in some ways. When Shane was home we spent a decent amount of time together watching two TV shows ("Game of Thrones, Season 2" and "QI") but I still hardly ever felt like I could relax. It was always, "Ok, one episode but then we need to do the dishes." Or, "I guess I could stay up an extra half hour and watch one episode of that." Scheduling in a set amount of time to relax isn't exactly relaxing. My brain was always moving onto thinking about the next thing I had to do.
The days are never long enough, and I've been resenting work for taking up a majority of my time. Even when I'm not there, I still have to plan things for work: what will I have for breakfast or lunch? How will I get myself there? What do I need to remember to pack? Is the alarm set? So I'm thinking about some of my choices, and some of my options, and trying to make sure I'm really doing what I want to be doing at this time. I have been biking to work this week, since it means less travel time. Ten minutes to get home rather than half an hour? Yes, please. In the mornings, the bonus is an extra ten minutes of sleep. Just ten minutes and yet I feel so much more rested during the day.
Last night, I broke out of my pattern. It was cloudy and rainy, so it was a perfect night for some baking. I made bread, which I later used to make a grilled turkey and cheese sandwich. (SO. GOOD.) I baked some cookies and when I started to think, "I should make something else to take advantage of the oven already being warm," I reminded myself that I now had plenty of food for just myself, and that there would be other cool days. (Like today.) I hardly ever allow myself the privilege of making cookies, simply because Shane doesn't eat a lot of them so I end up eating most of the batch. It was a nice little indulgence, and since I made zucchini cookies, I didn't even feel guilty about eating something "bad" for me. (In the recipe, I substitute allspice for nutmeg. Usually I love nutmeg, but it's paired with squash so often that I like the difference allspice brings to it.)
I took the dog for a short run, our first since my trip. My cough is finally gone, but my chest still felt a little tight by the end. So we're going to start again slowly.
I got to talk to Shane, but not for very long. He hasn't been feeling so great so he wasn't particularly chatty. I hope he feels better soon! It was nice to see his face, though, even if just on a screen.
Other than that, I read. I looked through "Put 'Em Up!" for a while, dreaming of all the ways I want to preserve food for us this year. Mostly, I read my Nook. I checked out "Agnes Grey" (by Anne Bronte) from ListenAlaska and I'm very much enjoying it. At one point, I had both the pets piled on me as I was reading. It was absolutely lovely.
Tonight it's sort of back to over-scheduling. Sort of. I'm supposed to meet a friend at a local coffee shop so that he can help me with a crocheting pattern. He might beg off, though, which wouldn't disappoint me too terribly. Not that I don't want to see him, but I'd kinda like to be a homebody for a while. (He's a work friend, so we've never been to each other's houses and I'm not sure if we're ready for that step yet.)
Tomorrow, I'm supposed to meet another friend before we start rehearsing for the summer opera ("La Boheme") which will take up most of my free time over the next two weeks. I won't even get to play softball, since rehearsals conflict with the games. (I paid to play softball, but I'm getting paid to play in the opera so I think the two even out. Plus, I know my need for those rehearsals is greater than my desire to play softball.)
If you don't hear much from me for the next couple of weeks, don't worry. I'll just be going a little crazy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden pics

When I read other blogs about gardening, there are frequently comments along the lines of, "Man, I wish I had the dedication to keep up with all of that." Admiring comments about the lack of weeds, about how much effort someone must have put into their garden, abound.
Cue the laugh track. The gardening blogger often responds with a very befuddled post about, "Honestly, it's usually very messy. I took pictures right after weeding, when it looks best, because I was too ashamed to show it before. I don't know why everyone thinks I have a perfect garden."
Gardeners, even long-time, experienced gardeners, even farmers, are not perfect at growing plants. No one has a garden that's completely free from weeds, or nasty bugs, or has a garden with perfect soil. No one has the perfect conditions in their garden--usually it's too much shade, or too much direct sun, or some infestation of something. Or tons of rocks. Gardens are always a work in progress.
So, if you've been admiring gardens but think, "I can't do that, I don't have space/time/energy..." trust me, you do and you can. If one "crop" fails, who cares? Focus on the ones that do well. I've never had a year where everything grew, or in which everything grew as I wanted it to. The first year I had more than a potato plant and a couple of herbs, my zucchinis took off. I was giving them away. But my cabbages split open and my carrots ended up being about two inches long, if they'd developed at all. The next year, my zucchinis didn't produce much, but my cabbages were lovely. Last year I had squash coming out the hoo-ha (because that's where squash comes from) but not much else. Even my mint plant died, and most people complain about having to cut back their mint so it doesn't take over. This year, my potatoes are aiming to be the stars, and I haven't had even a single flower on my strawberries.
Don't aim to be a perfect gardener. Just aim to grow what you can, and be pleased with it. There really isn't anything more rewarding.
So, to show how imperfect I am, here are my garden pics. Please don't be too disappointed in me.

I sort of took over the upstairs neighbors' table for my plants. I have strawberries, broccoli, celery, and small Parisienne carrots growing in buckets up there.

Closeup of the still-flowerless strawberries.

The--ahem--garden-in-progress. Did I mention that the weeds took over while we were gone? The areas where dirt is visible are where I actually have things, things which sprouted. I've given up on the carrots and parsnips sprouting at this point. Oh well, next year.
The white fencing is to help trellis my peas. When/if the peas outgrow the trellising, I'll probably put some birch branches out there to keep them growing up. The fencing I found in the yard, though, and figured I'd put it to use.

Hilled potatoes. It's hard to see in this picture but there's a giant mound of dirt under them, roughly a foot tall. With the way they've been growing, though, I'll need to find some way to prop it up and add some more dirt pretty soon.

Enormous third-year rhubarb plant! However....

See how spindly the stalks are? None of them is wider than my thumb, which is really quite small for rhubarb. It'll still take a while for this plant to produce nice thick stalks. The other plant, being only a second year rhubarb, is even smaller. (You can sort of see them in the picture of the whole garden. But they're green in a field of green, so a little hard to pick out.) I'll still be asking L for some rhubarb out of her garden this year.

Some of the first few pea flowers, at least on my outdoor plants. These are the things which make a gardener's heart sing.

The first cherry tomatoes to start ripening, at work.

It's really, really late to be planting anything new around here, but I'm trying anyway. I didn't have nearly as many squash plants this year as I need want. So this week I planted a couple more seeds. We'll see if they actually sprout, and after that if they actually have time to give me anything. At this point, though, I have plenty of seeds to hold onto until next year that I don't feel bad about "wasting" a couple.

I did start putting food away for the winter this weekend, though. L's rhubarb plant is growing crazily again (four stalks made a pie) so she let me harvest some. I grabbed a few of my thin stalks to help round it out a bit, and to encourage more growth in my plant. Then I froze the rhubarb, just for now. I'll can it later, but it's been so hot that the last thing I wanted to do was stand over a boiling pot for a while. I've been avoiding cooking anything, or turning on the oven, as much as possible. Next cloudy, cool-ish day, I'm going to bake up a storm and freeze most of it for later.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Charitable Divide--Help!

There is a rift in my household that I never knew existed before. Shane was flipping through the mail and said, "Hey, look, the March of Dimes sent you a dime." Yep. They've been doing that for months. I haven't donated to charity often over the past few years, but when a friend has a baby I often like to make a blanket for said baby and then donate a bit to a charity in their name. Sometimes the charity is very poignant--some friends had a little girl born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, so I donated to Smile Train in her honor. When a cousin had a baby born prematurely, I donated to a charity which supports families of preemies while they're in the hospital and helps the preemies themselves. When I've felt truly pinched for cash, it was sometimes easiest just to donate a homemade blanket. I'll make two, one for a boy and one for a girl. When I find out what the baby's sex is, the other blanket gets donated. Sometimes I tell the parents, sometimes I don't. But it's my own little way of ensuring that each child that's special to me starts life with a bit of good karma, or whatever you want to call it.
Sometimes, these charities sell your name and info. It sucks, and I hate it. There are so many good charities out there, so many worthwhile funds that I would like to support. But, I also hate that they sell my information. I donated to this group for a reason, what makes that group think that I'm going to have the funds or the desire to donate to them? I hate that my privacy was sold. And I hate how pushy some of these charities are.
What's even worse is how many of them come with a "free gift"--stickers, address stickers with my info on some sort of background that shows off the organization's logo, or in this case a dime. If I'm donating to charity, it's not to get their "free gift", which probably isn't free to them. I'd much rather they keep all their money instead of wasting it like that.
The March of Dimes has been, without a doubt, the worst and pushiest. Without fail, every month or so I get a letter in the mail from them with a dime that's supposed to tug on my heartstrings as they explain how that one dime could help a child in need. My first thought is always, then why are you sending the f**king dime to me?!
I've tried everything I can think of to get them to stop. I sent their dime back the first few times with a letter explaining that, like so many others, my household had been affected by job loss and that we weren't donating to charity at that time. It didn't stop them. I recently sent them two dimes back and a message saying that since they'd been annoying me, that's all the money they'd get from me and could they please take me off their list? This latest letter was their response. And before you think that no one saw my letter, I had a little test. They'd been addressing my mail by my maiden name and I signed my letter with my married name finally. On this latest letter from them, my name was changed.
I would feel awful about keeping the dimes they're so desperate to give me, even though they clearly have money to waste. So with this latest letter, I'm not going to send back their dime. I'm going to donate it to the local food bank and then use their prepared envelope with a letter that simply tells them my local food bank thanks them for their generosity and dimes, but if they'd prefer to keep them for their own charitable works that they should stop sending them to me. I don't know if this will work any better than my other letters, but at least I'll feel better. The dimes will go to an organization that truly needs them.
I didn't explain all of this to Shane, but I did decide to use that moment as a launching point for something I'd been thinking about for a while. I had just started off with, "Speaking of charities, I was thinking that I'd like to..." When Shane broke in with an emphatic "NO!" Surprised by the vehemence, I stopped washing dishes to look at him. He said, "No. We're still paying off my student loans, we're trying to save for a house, and we're thinking of bringing a child into this household at some point. We can't afford it." I explained that I just wanted to donate a small monthly sum to the food bank but he said, "No. Volunteer there as much as you like, but please don't give away our money. I really don't feel like we can afford it." Naturally, I had to ask him when he would feel like we could afford it and he answered, "Honestly, I never like giving away money."
So now I'm left wondering, what to do? This differing opinion on donating to charity is spotlighting some of the fundamental differences in how we view finances. Shane doesn't like donating money because he doesn't think it does any good. Helping out friends in need is one thing, but helping out strangers is not something he's interested in. He doesn't see what I see, that there are times and situations when people simply can't help themselves. I also don't think that a few bad decisions (like a bad housing loan leading to homelessness) should haunt someone for the rest of their lives. Having a brother and a cousin who are both social workers, I hear about the people they work with and the severe mental illnesses that many of them fight against daily. True, giving them money isn't the answer. But a little bit of money in the right places can go a long way towards helping a person, or a family, that's in need.
I like giving to the food bank, or to organizations like Heifer International, because those are organizations that help people who are literally starving to death. I find it unacceptable that people in the world are still starving, even in my own country. Additionally, the food bank frequently helps people who are temporarily going through hard times, and Heifer International helps people to help themselves. (And to continue giving the gift--that's one of my favorite parts.) These organizations help people on the brink. How can I do any less?
Shane still sees us as being in a precarious financial position. He sees the debt, and the future debt, we've taken on/are going to take on. He sees the costs of raising children, and it scares him. I see what we already have--less debt than most people, and more money in the bank than most people. Good jobs that are allowing us to save money for the future. I know that we will be fine. We have resources, and our health, and caring, giving families who will help us out if we ever run into trouble again. I see just how much we have, and how little other people have. Yes, it might be because of bad choices. It might not be because of their choices at all. No matter what, I feel that I should help these people because I can. In my own little way, it would be a "thank you" to the universe for having gifted us so richly.
This discussion isn't over, not nearly. I dropped the subject for the moment, mostly because I was distracted with my hands covered in soapy water. Some discussions are better to have while both parties are naked and lying in bed, when it's easier to be completely open and honest with each other, when harsh words and tones are out of place. (Seriously, it might sound bizarre, but some of our best discussions have been had that way. Things have been worked out while we snuggled which might have caused an argument if held in a more formal situation.) Shane did apologize later for his harshness on the subject, and I warned him that the topic wasn't done, and he nodded.
If Shane completely puts the kibosh on donating, I see myself as having a couple of choices: the first is that I donate whether he likes it or not. I could easily donate online using my credit card, and since our cards are separate and we don't view each other's e-statements, it would be easy enough to hide a little bit of charitable donation now that our monthly living expenses have gone down so much. An extra $50 of "grocery money" wouldn't really be noticed. But if I have to lie to my husband, that feels like a terrible decision. I know how pissed I'd be if he pulled something like that. Lying to one's spouse is never a good sign, and it's often a sure way to Divorceville.
I say it's a choice, but it's obviously not one I'm actually going to go for.
I could just live with not being able to fully express my values, and feel like a hypocrite. Even if/when I donate my time, I will always feel that I have the resources to do more, and it will eat away at me. But will it eat away at Shane if I do live my values? Or will he learn to accept it as part of our monthly budget? When we were simply dating, our finances and earnings were our own. We tried to keep mutual expenditures relatively fair, but didn't really stick our noses in when the other person decided to make a purchase or spend their money. But now it really is our money, and I feel an obligation to live also how Shane wants to live. If that means not donating money to charity, I might have to live with it.
The final thing I could do is to continue to grow and expand my garden so that, eventually, I could start donating some of the excess food to the food bank. This is something I've been wanting to do anyway for a long time, but it was always in my plan that it would be in addition to whatever money I also felt I could afford.
Shane did say that if I wanted to buy tickets to things like charity dinners, even if it turned out to be rather expensive, that would be fine with him. He'd want a heads-up, but unless we were really strapped for cash he wouldn't say no. In many ways, it's the perception of giving away our money "for nothing" that gets to him. I don't see helping the world and most especially our community as getting "nothing" in return, but that's a discussion for another day. And again, it goes back to differing ways we view the world.
Life is a compromise, and I never thought that marriage would be easy. It's fun, and wonderful, and I wouldn't trade Shane for anything or anyone else in the world. But getting married hasn't meant that we suddenly see everything the same way, or think about life the same way. The hardest part of any relationship is reconciling those points on which we disagree. Thankfully, those are few and far between for us. But while some differences are small and easily overlooked, others (like this) are big things. If there's anyone out there with advice,, any and all of it would be gratefully accepted. What would you do? How do you and your spouse make decisions about, well, "moral" expenditures and issues? Do you ever have times when one spouse just needs to compromise on their values?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yesterday was sort of accidentally/intentionally a "get things done" day. When I got home from work I told Shane that we absolutely had to go to the grocery store, and that we needed to figure out our meals for the rest of the week. Shane mentioned that the house was looking a little, well, overgrown and that we should also do some dishes and laundry.
It was off to HG Market first, where the only thing we bought were beans, sadly. They were out of almost everything else. When we talked to one of the managers we found out that their demand has really, really dropped off for the summer. More people going to the farmer's market, plenty of people out of town. Also, it's not exactly peak animal slaughtering time (that's usually in the fall, and then again toward the end of winter to cull out animals that won't be useful for the upcoming summer) so they didn't have much in the way of meat. Disappointing. Next time they get deli meat, I think I'm going to stock up in a big way and then freeze it in individual sandwich portions to make it easy to thaw.
Also, if you go to HG, they would really appreciate it if people would stop using their rewards credit cards. They started a FB discussion about it, since they get charged a 5% transaction fee for those cards. That's something I guess I knew (at least, that those cards charge more) but I admit that I've used my airline mileage card there often in the past. No more. Debit or cash now, since those are much cheaper for them. I was actually surprised by the number of people on FB who said, "That's simply the cost of doing business. Deal with it." Wow. And if the business costs too much, they're going to quickly be OUT of business. What a callous attitude. I hope the wonderful folks at HG come up with a solution quickly.
They've had veggie boxes going for a long time now, sort of like a CSA, but we've never ordered through them. For the summer, I'd rather go directly to the farmer's market. But I think that as soon as that starts closing down I'm going to start ordering a veggie box. It'll be an adventure, at the least ("What will it be this week?") and will probably expand some of my tastes as well as challenging my culinary skills. (What on earth does one do with kohlrabi?)
After we got home from the stores, Shane immediately set about doing dishes, then making dinner. Mmmm...shrimp fettucini alfredo with peas, and beans on the side. I helped with the dishes while trying to also get laundry sorted and started. While Shane made dinner, I was fertilizing and watering my plants in their buckets, popping in to help whenever Shane called, "Can I get a hand?" It was both frenetic and frantic, and I'm almost surprised that we got as much done as we did. It doesn't sound like much when it's written like this, but just this was over half an hour of running around for both of us.
I finally got a chance to go out and weed, but not for long. My potatoes already needed to be hilled, so I was tearing up dirt from wherever I could find it and packing it down around the plants. Last time I was weeding I accidentally pulled up too much dirt and found that I already have at least one fist-sized potato. (Don't be too impressed, I have tiny hands.) So that should be a bumper crop this year. :)
Just as I was about to move onto weeding the peas, Shane called out that dinner was ready. So I quickly yanked the worst of the weeds (I've got some flowers on my peas!) and ran inside to wash my hands. But I realized that everything outside was quite dry from the heat and said, "Be right back, I'm gonna set up the hose."
After dinner, we still weren't done with our productivity. I still had more laundry to do, mostly thwarted by the upstairs neighbor who washed a pack of cigarettes in one load and had to re-wash it. But I'm loving the heat for laundry time. Things air-dry so fast! I didn't have a full dryer load of stuff (kitchen towels, socks, etc.) so I ended up line-drying a sheet. It was surprisingly simple, considering my lack of space. I used two slacks hangers, one on either end (duh), and hung it on the shower rod in the bathroom. Ta-da! It was perfectly dry by the time I got up this morning and I'm thinking that I might always start drying sheets this way, as long as we have room for it.

The final thing I did was baking. I didn't make bread, because it ended up being another really hot evening. But I did need something for breakfast, so I made some oatmeal/barley scones. They didn't need to bake for very long, they're easy, and they're delicious.
All that, and we still managed to watch the first two episodes of "Game of Thrones: Season 2", plus an episode of "QI".
Tonight, I feel, might be almost as busy. I need to finish the weeding and also finish the planting. Yep, I still have a few plants I haven't put in the ground yet. It's atrocious. I keep thinking I have more time than I do, but it's pretty much the end of June. Where has all the time gone?! We've only got about 2, 2 1/2 months of summer left. Eek! So much to do between now and then. And I've only gotten a few veggies so far, exclusively from the plants I have at work, so I'm getting nervous that my garden won't be as productive as in past years. (Which really isn't saying much to start with!)
I really should be enjoying summer. It only comes once a year, and it's a fabulous time around here. Despite my complaints about the heat and the mosquitoes (bastards!), I really do enjoy it most of the time. But yesterday I stumbled upon an Australian slow living blog and seeing all of her lovely pictures of their autumn/winter, I suddenly really craved that time of year. You see, it's my favorite. (I almost said favorite month! Which is pretty much true here....) I love when the air is crisp, when you need a sweater but not a jacket, when mittens and fingerless gloves come back into play. When it's time once again to start mulling cider and making pumpkin or apple pie. When homemade soup seems like the best idea ever, and the leaves are turning colors, falling, and covered in frost in the mornings. I love the now low-slung sun, the lengthening of shadows. I love it all, and I'm so excited that it's coming up.
However, this longing did push me to do one winter activity now. A friend of mine is an absolutely amazing knitter (and gardener too--he's one I turn to for lots of advice on gardening and house plants) so I asked him if there's a time he and I could get together so he could help me with reading a pattern I'm having trouble with. I was so excited about this project and started with high hopes, but I had trouble reading the pattern so I put it down. It's been sitting in the living room for months, not being worked on. So after seeing the blogger's lovely pictures of her own knitting, I contacted him. We're having a coffee "date" next week so that he can help me. Since it'll be a little shrug, it will be light enough for summer but cover enough so that I can wear some of my tank tops to work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Feeling a little failure

I have a confession: last night, we ordered Chinese food.
Doesn't sound like a failure? Well, to me it sort of is, and I should probably explain why. When Shane is gone, I get to eat whatever I feel like. (You know, within my own make-it-yourself, locavore-if-possible personal rules.) Usually, this means sandwiches. (Why heat up the kitchen, since it's summer, just for myself? Why waste the electricity?) Since the food they give Shane at camp isn't the greatest, I feel like he should get to eat whatever he most wants when he's at home. Usually, this means whatever we want to prepare. But he's actually been sort of wishy-washy about what he wants to eat so far. I didn't do a big grocery trip last weekend because, well, I didn't have the energy for it for one thing (damn cough!), but I also didn't know what we'd be making. I prepared one meal for Sunday, when he'd be getting home, but didn't have meal prep beyond that. So last night I got home from work and one of the first things I asked was, "Should we go to the store? What do you want for dinner?" He said, "I honestly don't know." As we sat there trying to think of what we might want to eat, and what wouldn't heat up the house much (it was over 80 degrees--blech!), and what would be easy to prepare, Shane finally suggested, "Why don't we just order Chinese?" And I said yes. I knew that there were all kinds of reasons that I didn't really want to order Chinese, but it wasn't until the food arrived that I thought, "Oh, yeah. All the Styrofoam packaging. And the plastic packets of soy sauce, and the plastic-wrapped cookies. And where on earth are the vegetables?"
I really should have planned better. I should have come up with a backup plan in case Shane didn't have any preferences. I've been making excuses for myself about being exhausted from this cold--which I really have been, and getting myself well is priority number one. (I can't do anything else if I'm ill!) But I know that I could have done better.
This morning we ran out of bread, so I'm going to make more tonight. As of this morning, it wasn't quite as hot as yesterday so hopefully it won't be ridiculous to heat up the oven and the house. In fact, if we get some rain I'll probably take the opportunity to make this a baking night and get some other things done (scones!) so that I have backups in the freezer and I don't have to bake later on other hot days.
I'll need to pull out my big book of recipes again and try to figure out which meals are great for summer. We should eat some grilled salmon sometime this week, but what else? I hate having more than one meal in a week that's ruled by the Meat portion. What else could we grill that's perhaps more veggie-centric? After I make bread tonight, we'll probably make some of our favorite sandwiches and use a bit of my homegrown basil.
One of the biggest keys to getting more sustainable is having a plan, I've found. I really feel the lack when we don't have one. Which isn't to say that I plan everything out, or that everything goes according to plan. (Just look at my gardening--that never goes according to plan!) When I make a "meal plan" for the week, I don't plan out which nights we're going to make what because I don't know which days are going to be too hot to cook/bake, or if something unexpected will crop up. But it is nice to have that plan so that I know what ingredients there are on hand, to know what I can make without a trip to the store.

Are horror movies men?

Shane and I went to see "Prometheus" last night. When we got home Shane started this conversation:
"So, I think horror movies are totally sexist. I mean, when's the last time a guy made it to the end of a horror movie, alive?"
Me: "Like, all of the Freddie Kruger movies."
Shane: "Doesn't count. I mean a good guy."
Me: "True, they usually die. But when's the last time a horror movie passed the Brechdel test, either?"
Then I had to explain the Brechdel test. It's simply a test of whether or not a movie has two named female characters who speak to each other on-screen about something other than men. And once you start to think about it, very few movies live up. Shane Googled it and started laughing at the list of movies that didn't make it: None of the original Star Wars trilogy (for which most people can only think of 2-3 female characters at all), the first three Indiana Jones movies don't make it (I never saw the 4th one, so I don't know about that one), "The Avengers" doesn't make it, "Ghostbusters" doesn't make it, "Cowboys and Aliens" doesn't make it.... "Prometheus" made it.
It's interesting sometimes to talk to a man about sexism. Yes, I absolutely agree that there is sexism against men. And probably, the fact that men never make it out of horror movie situations alive (that either of us could remember) is a form of gender discrimination. But taken in the overall context of discrimination in movies, it's nothing compared to the movies that fail the Brechdel test. Most of them are supposedly aimed at men, but which many girls and women will also see because those are the summer blockbusters. Sadly, many movies that don't make it are also children's movies. ("Rango" didn't make it.) When roughly half of all movies produced don't have enough female characters that they talk to each other, or have female characters who only talk to each other about men, it's just sad.
Applying the Brechdel test to books also leads to some interesting thoughts and discussions. Admittedly, most books include female characters who talk to each other about something other than men. And they get to have more interesting and subtle gender roles that play out. I loved Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible", and one of my favorite things about it is that the father character doesn't narrate at all. In the family dynamics, he's the "strong father" type, the head of the household and what he says rules. His wife and daughters don't get to make decisions, don't get to speak against him. But he never gets a voice in the book itself, because it's completely narrated by the women around him. And it's such a subtle thing that it took me over half the book to realize what Kingsolver had done. It was simply beautiful.
Despite books like that, the fact remains that most books are written by and about men. Even young adult books are mostly written about boy characters. Pretty much the only category of book I can think of which goes against the trend are romance novels, and while those can be empowering there's still an aura of defining a woman by her relationship to men in romances--that is, after all, what the genre is about. (Which isn't to say that I've never enjoyed a good--or even a bad--romance novel on occasion.) I want to know--where are all the female characters? Where are the female authors?
If you have a daughter (or even a son) and have wondered the same thing, I suggest checking out All of the books they suggest have strong females as their lead characters. It's fantastic. I hope that in the future more and more books will be added to their list.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Broken and overgrown.

Shane got home last night and after a while he asked me how the garden was doing. I explained that I'd been out weeding for over an hour that afternoon before sending him out to look at it. He came back inside laughing and said, "That's after weeding? Hahaha!" Thanks, dear. (And he wonders why I want a raised garden bed when we have our own house.)
It got so completely overgrown while we were in Hawaii that now I'm fighting an uphill battle. However, I did find a little hand rake style tool that helped out a lot. It didn't get the more established weeds, of course--those had to be pulled by hand--but the new little ones that have cropped up came right out with just a few rakes. It's fantastic. Especially since I still don't have much energy right now. Last night was the first night since getting home during which I managed to get more than four hours of sleep before waking myself up coughing. I got a whole six hours of sleep before that happened!
And our dishwasher broke. It must have happened while we were gone, somehow. I don't make that many dishes when it's just me in the house, so I didn't have a full load until Saturday and when I tried to start the dishwasher, nothing happened. I tried again yesterday and still nothing happened, so I called the landlord. Then I did the dishes by hand. It's really not so bad, except that there is apparently a hole in one of our sinks. So we have a large canning jar under the hole, and a plastic tub (from our cabin days) in the sink. Since we don't have a dish drainer, I simply put the dishes back in the dishwasher to drain and dry.
By myself, and especially because of my cold (I haven't been eating much--a couple pieces of toast and some soup each day, lots of tea with honey) I don't make that many dishes. With Shane around, well, we'll see. He HATES doing dishes by hand, and gets really grumpy about them. I might just take over that chore entirely until the dishwasher gets fixed, simply to promote household harmony. The landlord is supposed to be coming over either today or tomorrow to take a look at it, but he warned me that if he has to order a part it could be next week before the dishwasher gets totally fixed. Oh well. Technically, I think doing the dishes by hand saves water--if you're washing them the way they're supposed to be done by hand. One sink full of soapy water, one full of clean water.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Land of the Midnight Sun

Ever wondered why Alaska is called the Land of the Midnight Sun? This is why: I took that photo last night at midnight. I admit, it doesn't look too sunny because of the contrast, but the sun was up enough for this photo, too:
The lilacs in front of our house were blooming when we got home, and they're so beautiful. I was worried that I'd miss all the flowers in Hawaii, but we've got our own here. The lilacs and the wild roses are out in all their glory. It's wonderful.
Pardon me for the lack of posting. As usual, I came home with a cold. Actually, mostly it's just a cough. A bad cough. I called my dad today for Father's Day and the few minutes of talking got me coughing uncontrollably. It was miserable. I've been waking up early in the mornings coughing too. Bleh.
But Shane gets home tonight, he can take care of me. :) In the meantime I've been using a homemade cold/cough remedy of 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a mug of hot water with enough honey to make it palatable. Other than that, I've been drinking lots and lots of jasmine tea with honey.
I got out and did some gardening today, as well as cleaning the house a bit. My plants look well but the garden was ridiculously overgrown just from the few days we were gone. So I put some serious work into that. When we get a home of our own, I want raised beds. None of this established weeds crap we have going on here. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Giving rights to Mother Nature?

The ending to this article sounds a little radical, but the arguments are sound. Why should human beings be the only creatures or living things on earth that have legal "rights"? What right do we really have to pollute and destroy the world that so many others live on, not just people but animals too? How is it that someone who kills another is a criminal, but someone who poisons water in the name of industry isn't?
As the author so succinctly put it, "We are not gods." Every time we get a new technology to make our lives "better", we get some disadvantage from it too. We are not omnipotent, and we can't see all of the affects that each of our decisions has so it's probably best to mess with natural systems as little as possible. The more I learn about ecosystems, the more I am in awe at how perfectly Nature works on its own. I just wish others felt the same.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not so very zero waste

On our trip, I was very proud of myself because I remembered our reusable mugs. Among other things, our first flight, to Anchorage, left at 7:30 and I knew we'd be tired and wanting coffee/tea. After we made it through security we went over to the coffee shop and when we placed our orders I had the mugs out. The woman at the counter started pulling out cups anyway and I said, "No, in here please." She looked at the mugs, then at the cup in her hand and said, "Well, we'll just do it this way and you can pour the coffee in those after." After an incredulous moment Shane and I chorused, "That really defeats the purpose." She looked at us all confused and said, "Huh?" We gave up. I'm not sure if it was stupidity or if she was just too set in her ways to accept reusable mugs in her world, but that was a battle we weren't going to win. I'm still in awe, though, that she somehow thought that using a cup and then having us pour our drinks into our reusable mugs just to throw away those cups anyway was a good idea. *Facepalm*
The mugs came in less handy than I thought they would, because we only stopped for coffee/tea once in Hawaii, and then once more in the Anchorage airport on the way home. For many of our drinks, they came in plastic cups anyway and of course there was no public recycling. The bar next to the beach which we favored (the one outside the hotel the wedding party was staying at) served everything in disposable plastic cups, which was annoying. I supposed I could have boycotted them, but there were several times when I really needed some water, and a few times when a pina colada was just irresistible. For the most part, though, we did resist any impulse to buy heavily packaged stuff. Or really anything, for that matter. We bought a couple of toiletries we forgot (btw, never sleep with your contacts in after traveling all day--your eyes will get red and slightly infected and all your friends will make jokes about what a stoner you appear to be) and food, but that was about it. We figured that we'd go shopping if we had time, and I had planned to find somewhere to get a bunch of bulk dried fruit like papaya and mango, because it's hard to find here and very expensive. Macadamia nuts would have been nice too, and a few chocolate covered ones. But we never bothered even trying to find someplace like that. We were having too much fun to go shopping.
So what did we do? Lots of beach time. Lots of bar time with friends. Dinners out, wedding stuff, and on the last day we hiked Diamond Head. Then went to the beach again to cool off. :) So really, it was a fairly inexpensive trip because so many of our activities were free. And I'm not as disappointed by the lack of shopping as I thought I would be. When we were thinking about what we wanted to do I thought it would be fun to go to the International Market, or to try finding a thrift store/consignment shop to see what a big city has. (Many of my shirts are getting old and have some holes in them, so it's about time to turn them into rags. It wouldn't have been shopping just for the sake of shopping.) The fact that I came home empty-handed doesn't disappoint because I wouldn't have traded any of the activities we did get around to.
I am upset that we didn't bring home a magnet for L, though. She loves magnets from far away places and asked for one, but we didn't think of it until it was too late. :(

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"You're peeing on my science."

I know, honestly I do, that we weren't gone for that long. 6 days? But this was one of those vacations that feels like a heavenly bit of forever. By the time we got to Hawaii I was already forgetting what day of the week it was, and kept saying, "The other day..." to describe something that had happened just the day before. And now it's just as odd to be home, and remembering that it was just yesterday when I was swimming in the warm ocean. Now I'm hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean, and it would be far too cold to want to swim in. I already miss the beaches.
I know I'm jet-lagged, but that can't be the whole reason I feel so odd about this trip. I think, really, that it just boils down to Hawaii being so completely different than Alaska. I couldn't stop staring at the trees, which were so big and lush compared to our stunted sub-arctic ones. Which is not to put down our trees at all, but they're so different. I stopped to read a plaque at one of the hotels about a tree which had been planted by the owner. By its size, from my standards, I was thinking that it had to be a 100+ year-old tree, but it turns out it was only 30. I forget, sometimes, that when trees get warmth and sunshine year-round, they get rather large. The flowers in bloom perfumed the air. Just breathing in was a treat, with the salty sea air and the flowers.
The bugs are a whole other surprise. One of my brothers also went to Hawaii for our friends' wedding--he was actually the best man. But it was his birthday the day before we all got out there, so on our second night Shane and I took him out to dinner to celebrate. We got away from the touristy area of Waikiki and found a little Thai restaurant. It was great food, and even better conversation. At the end of dinner, I went out to the restroom. It was a weird bathroom all together, with the front of the toilet being less than half a foot from the wall, even though there would have been plenty of space if they'd moved the toilet around a little. As I was contemplating how close my face would be to the wall I looked down and saw the most enormous cockroach I've ever seen in my life. (Fine, fine, aside from the ones I've seen in the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.) It must have been at least three inches long and it was walking toward my flip-flopped feet. I could have stepped on it, but I have tiny feet so there was a good possibility of cockroach guts getting onto my feet. I figured I didn't really need to pee that bad, so I left. When I confessed that later to Shane and my brother, they laughed at me. I had to remind them, "In Alaska, I never have to deal with bugs like that, and I like it that way!"
One of the biggest treats in this trip was that I got to see friends I haven't seen in years and catch up with them a bit. It's odd to realize that everyone's getting settled in life--almost all of us are married now, and most of these friends are either into or launching their chosen careers. Babies are around or on the horizon. Houses are being purchased, our parents are starting to retire. Is this what it's like to be a grownup?
The wedding itself was gorgeous, of course. Not just the setting, or the dress and rings, but all of it. The ceremony was touching, and I'm not ashamed to say that I cried a bit. (The only wedding I ever went to where I didn't cry a bit was my own. I get sentimental and weepy at other people's weddings, but at my own I felt too overwhelmingly joyful. If I remember nothing else about my wedding day, I will always remember the fact that I couldn't stop smiling.) They even had the best idea I've ever heard. My brother had made a beautiful wood box for them, and as part of the ceremony they put a few items into it: a bottle of wine, a love letter from each of them describing why they fell in love and what their favorite things about the other person are. Their parents also put small tokens in there, to help them remember their wedding day or just to have some good advice about marriage tucked away. The point of this box is that, if they ever feel for any reason that they can't keep their vows, they're to open the box together, drink the wine, and read the letters. If, as everyone hopes and trusts, they don't need to open it, they will open it on their 10th anniversary. When they're done going through the box and the wine, they will put in a new bottle of wine and two new love letters describing how their love for one another has changed over the course of ten years. Isn't that beautiful?
Seeing two wonderful people, two amazing friends, join their lives never gets old. Especially when they're so well-matched.
While we were there, we not only got to witness the beginning of a marriage, but also some of the last stages of one. Not because of divorce, but because of age. We stayed with Shane's aunt, who is wonderful, and her husband. The husband is, I believe, over 20 years older than Aunt N., in his 90s. Since our own wedding, her husband had a stroke, which caused dementia, and now it's painfully obvious that he's on the long, slow decline to the end of his life. He said a few odd things, some of which sounded a bit scary but I wonder if it's the effect of his stroke. The first night when we showed up, we said hi to both and Uncle turned to us when we asked how he was and said, "I'm dead." Aunt N. laughed and said, "No, don't scare the kids like that." But he said it again the next morning and I realized that he was saying it more like, "I'm fine." Perhaps he was getting the words mixed up in his head? He also asked me if I know how to speak Hebrew. He's still very cheerful, and very polite. They have a caretaker and physical therapist who stays with him when Aunt N. can't be there.
I couldn't help but feel sorry for her, though. I can't imagine there are many worse things in life than watching your spouse slip away from you like that. It would be so hard, so sad. I saw the pictures in the hallway of them when he was younger and they could be more active. They were so happy together. And I'm sure that there's really no other place Aunt N. would rather be than by his side, helping him and comforting him. But it's still a hard thing to do. "For better or for worse" encompasses a lot, really endless possibilities. In some ways I'm excited for the time when Shane and I are old together, and for the life we'll live together getting to that point. But it's scary, too. Seeing these two in their old age is the sort of thing that makes us hold each other just a little bit tighter, a little bit longer.
And in its own way, it makes our separation a little bit harder. We got in early this morning and took a nap together. I was the first to leave the house (I'm trying to save as much vacation time as possible so that I can use it when Shane is available) and I got a little taste of what Shane feels like every third Monday morning when he has to leave me, sleeping, with a quick kiss and a few words of love. Shane will be back on Sunday, so it's not the end of the world. But I still wish he didn't have to go. I'm not done holding him close yet.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not wasting food

It's been a whirlwind week so far, for both of us. Shane went back to work Monday morning (leaving at 5:30) and hasn't worked less than a 12 hour day since then.
I've been working 9 hour days to try to conserve as much of my vacation time as possible for when I can actually spend time with my husband and family. I'll be doing the same (or possibly even working a couple of 10s) next week when we get back. I'm hoping to use less than 3 days of vacation time for the 5 1/2 days we'll be gone.
But we're going to Hawaii! I'm so excited. To see Shane's wonderful aunt (who is letting us stay with her), to see my friends get married, to see the tropical island again and swim in warm ocean will be bliss. And best of all, I get to spend a bunch of time with Shane and with my brother. I'll even get a chance to know my brother's girlfriend a bit.
Even with such a short trip, though, there's a lot of planning involved. Not only finding a pet-sitter and someone to drive us to the airport, packing, and working a lot, but also making sure we're not wasting food. Over the weekend, when Shane and I went to the grocery store together, I bought a bunch of fruit. He ended up asking me, "Can you eat all of that? Are you sure?" The answer is a definitive yes, because I have the last of it packed for lunch. After I eat dinner tonight, the only thing we'll have in the house which could go bad is some celery, and I'll probably eat some of that with my dinner before blanching and freezing the rest.
Of course, this means that on top of everything else I'll need to do when I get home, I'll have to go grocery shopping. But I would have had to do that anyway, since this food would have gone bad before I got home. This way it's just not wasted.
I am rather proud of how perfectly I planned it all, though. I made a wrap sandwich for lunch today (we don't even have any bread left) and ended up using some of my homegrown spinach in it because all of our other leafy vegetables and things which might have gone into a sandwich have been eaten (or were so old that they'd gone moldy, like the avocado I bought, darn it!). Now I've harvested from my garden stuff: a few spinach leaves, 2 beans, and 7 pea pods. Not bad for the beginning of June in Fairbanks!
The packing is the only major thing I have left on my list. I haven't started yet, of course. I wait until the last minute so that the pets don't have as much time to freak out. They're freaking out anyway because Shane's gone, so I really don't want to add to that. I'll pack tonight, and I'll have to do some digging for the clothes I want, since truly hot weather is a rarity around here. Thankfully I have a few sundresses, two of which my MIL bought for me, one from Italy, and one from the last time Shane and I went to HI. (He bought me a dress, and I bought him a shirt.) Since we won't be gone that long, everything will easily fit inside my hiking backpack. I have a dress that will be great for the wedding itself, and I'll be packing a total of three pairs of shoes. (One pair of flip-flops, one pair of walking sandals, and my ballet flats.) Now is also when my Nook is going to come in most handy: I'll download some free books from ListenAlaska to put on there and won't have to worry about running out of things to read. The only actual book I'll bring will be one which I'm returning to my little brother, via my middle brother (who's coming to the wedding). That middle brother will also be bringing a couple of books to me, one return and one loan. :) Ah, Sibling Post. Love it.
In addition to everyone we'll see in Hawaii, we also get to see my MIL. We had to stop in Anchorage no matter what, so we made it a rather long layover and my MIL will drive up to have lunch with us. Not only that, but she's giving me her old iPod Touch. It's not at all old, but she got an iPhone and decided that she didn't need the iPod anymore, so she offered it to me. I tend to be the type of gets an electronic gadget and uses it until it starts to break. This is the case with my old, first generation iPod Nano. There was a recall a while ago because so many of the first gen ones broke, and they replaced them with newer ones. But I never did that because mine worked just fine. Well, now it's not. Some of the buttons are dying, and the sound goes off sometimes. I would want it replaced anyway soon (running without music is unbelievably boring!), so it makes me happy that I can replace it without either spending a lot of money or buying something new.
Talk to you later, folks!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The birds and the bees

Yes, it's a post about sex. Flower sex, that is. But also, birds and bugs. Really, just a free for all of things that could be covered under the title "the birds and the bees". I think I did a post like this last year, but it's good to reiterate this stuff sometimes.
Last week at work we had "The Mystery of the Paintbrush". I have a small, thin paintbrush that I keep on my desk and it went missing. My coworker remembered that my boss had found it when I wasn't around and didn't know what it was for, so she'd done something with it but she didn't know what. (I later found it in a cup of pens for patrons to use.) I had to explain that the paintbrush is what I use to pollinate the tomatoes in the office. When I told my boss that, she got this mischievous, slightly scandalized look, as if I'd just said a dirty joke. I suppose I sort of did, since I was essentially talking about plant sex. Tomatoes indoors (as well as some other fruiting plants) need to be hand-pollinated to take the place of the bugs which aren't around to do the job. I've found that the best and easiest tool for this is a small, thin paintbrush that I found in the office a while ago. I simply swirl it around inside the flower, collecting pollen, and then move along to the next flower. I generally get each flower twice per round, just to be sure I haven't missed any of them. And I do this every day. I know I get some flowers multiple times, but it's best to be safe. This isn't exact, and it doesn't lead to 100% pollination, but it gets the job done quite effectively. Before I tried hand pollination, I got zero tomatoes.
I also go between my two cherry tomato plants frequently, just in case they need to be cross-pollinated. I'm worried that my giant Cosmonaut Volkov tomato needs to be cross-pollinated, because I don't have another (not at work, anyway) and it's much too large to be moved. (I thought it was supposed to be a bush variety....)
My beans and peas don't need to be hand-pollinated, thankfully. I checked to be sure before buying them, so you might want to look at specific varieties on the internet to see if they need outside pollination. If you're wondering why your indoor plant isn't producing anything, try hand-pollination to see if that does the trick. If not, it might be suffering from either a lack of nutrients or a lack of proper light. New windows have all sorts of UV-filter sprays and screens on them that block out certain shades or colors of light which are bad for people, but good for plants. It's one of the reasons my plant starts at home end up a bit weak and small before I set them out. (And I know it's a problem.) At work, the section of the building that I work in is old and hasn't been renovated. (Yet.) We have crappy, crappy windows probably from when the building went in during the...50's? 60's? A long time ago. So my plants are getting the full range of light, even if it isn't direct sunlight for most of them.
This is the time of year when we're also inundated by bugs of all kinds. Some are great--I saw my first butterfly of the summer today! Some I tolerate, like the spiders. (They kill mosquitoes, so I let them live.) And some are absolute pests, like the mosquitoes and the fruit flies. I have become a slayer of bugs. There's a swarm of them around some of the plants at work, including the ones on my desk. My coworker laughs at me because every once in a while she hears a loud BAM! from my direction and knows that I've killed another bug. I'm not sure how to get rid of them yet, but I'm thinking vinegar. Perhaps a spray solution?
Vinegar is also my friend in the kitchen, with the fruit flies. They are awful for us. The easiest solution is to stick a little container (I use an old jam jar, low and wide) about half full of apple cider vinegar, with one drop of dish soap to break the surface tension. The fruit flies are attracted to the fermenting smell of the vinegar, but once they get in it they drown. We did try it without the drop of dish soap (literally, just one drop) and it didn't work as well. The bugs are small enough and light enough that they can't break the surface tension enough to drown. Shane just rinsed out and refilled the vinegar last night. When I checked it this morning there were about ten new corpses floating in it.
Finally, birds. We have a sack of bird seed that's been sitting on our front lawn since last summer. It was left with us by our friend who camped out in our driveway last year. And it's still as full as it was when he left it. Commercial bird seed is generally shipped from places like China, which have lots of plant species which are classified as invasive in the U.S. So to ship their seeds here, they need to go through a process (irradiation, I think?) which makes the seeds inactive, and also kills what makes them nutritious for birds. The worst part is, this process doesn't even manage to kill the invasive seeds all the time, so we're giving birds the equivalent of junk food and bringing invasive plants in at the same time. Lovely, right? As far as I'm concerned, it's totally unnecessary.
With this bag, not even the ravens have eaten the seed or bothered it at all, and you know it's bad then. The ravens eat trash, for goodness' sake, and even went so far as to peck apart the sandbags we had in the back of the truck (for traction on icy roads) thinking that they were trash bags. (Those stupid birds are as bad as my dog!) When the ravens don't bother eating something, it's probably not even mildly edible.
So my point to all of this, really, is don't buy commercial bird seed. It doesn't do you or the birds any good. Find other ways to attract birds to your area. I love having birds around, waking up to their chirps and calls so I'm trying to find other ways to attract them, like with a bird bath. (Not that I have one yet.) Shelter is also good, so having trees and big shrubs will give them a place to hide or possibly even nest. You can even put out bird houses and cross your fingers that they find them nice enough to nest in. Not only would you get to watch the birds, you'd get to see their babies too.
Try planting flowers in your yard that you know will attract birds. Have hummingbirds in your area? Look up the flowers they're most attracted to and plant some. Or try sunflowers, which are large and have seeds many birds love. (Of course, this is bad if you actually want the seeds for yourself.)
If you really feel that feeding them is a must, make your own seed mix. Go to the bulk section of your grocery store and pick out some of the seeds, or even some nuts. Chickadees and a few other small birds apparently go crazy for peanuts. Most birds love sunflower seeds, and flax seeds or sesame seeds might make a good addition. Try it out, see what you come up with. Mixing it with peanut butter works well, too.
When I looked out the window this morning, I saw a hugely fat robin sitting on our fence. The cat noticed him, too, and did the little chittering noise that cats make when they see birds. Fortunately, I was keeping our kitty inside anyway. And even if I let him out, he's never caught anything so I'm fairly certain the birds are safe. But not all cats are like mine. Last weekend J let one of his cats outside, and the cat returned with a live bird (which he let loose in the house, of course). This is the same cat he caught playing catch and release with a bird last summer. (He'd drag a bird under the porch and struggle with it for a minute, then let it go and chase after it. Soon enough, he'd be back with a bird, which would soon be let go. J was never sure if it was the same stupid bird or if he was catching a new one each time, but he watched the cat release about five birds before he figured out what was going on.) So if you like birds, but have a bird hunting cat, I would suggest that you perhaps leave the bird-attraction techniques to others. Unless you really like having live birds let loose in your house or bird corpses littering your lawn?