Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: Living More With Less

I'd like to welcome back my sister Diana as a guest poster! Last August, she wrote a great piece on clothing & modesty (it's actually the most popular article on the blog), and she's back with a book review of "Living More With Less." If you want to check out more of her stuff, she now has a blog at

Living More With Less- review by Diana

Sustainability... global responsibility... simplification... social justice... These are buzzwords of trendy modern ideas, right? And Mennonites... don’t they just drive buggies and bake casseroles?

Enter Mennonite author and social activist Doris Janzen Longacre who published the “More with Less” cookbook more than 30 years ago. She had a deep passion for the world’s poor and wanted to encourage responsible food consumption in the wealthy (that would be all of us, yes all) homes of Americans and Canadians. The book was so well received that Doris was prompted to write on developing a sustainable, globally responsible lifestyle. Thus “Living More with Less” was born.

In this book, Doris outlines five “life standards” - basic principles that boil down to being less selfish and consumeristic. Then she includes tips from people (Mennonites) around the world sharing their experiences on living with less.

But being sustainable and “green” now is mainstream, and we can all feel really good about ourselves for taking our reusable bags to the grocery store and using our Nalgenes instead of endless Ozarka bottles, right? And I’m a busy mom with no time to embrace radical conservationism, plus I’m not very excited about using junk mail as toilet paper or stuffing my pillows with the dog hair my canines drop in endless fluff balls (don’t worry, I just made that up, those are not in the book). But I think I can pick one thing to change right now, and then maybe next month I can pick another, then another, etc. I’ve already decided to switch to cloth napkins (as soon as we use up our 1000-count pack from Costco) and be more aware of food waste.

As Doris was writing “Living More with Less,” she was battling cancer - what a perspective on important living. For the impact of her books, she was named one of the top three Mennonites of all time. I didn’t even know there was a list of top Mennonites; neither did my husband. He was raised Mennonite (buggies=no, casseroles=yes) and had the impression of it being an old-fashioned, small-town religion. While that may have been the case in his home town, reading these books has given him a new pride and respect for his upbringing. The “More with Less” cookbook and Doris’ life standards reveal that sustainability and global responsibility were priorities to the Mennonite community before they became mainstream to us hipsters.

Luckily, for this generation, “Living More with Less” has been published as a 30th Anniversary edition. The statistics and global contexts have been updated, and it includes modern testimonials of applications of Doris’ principles.

Some quotes along with each of her five life standards:

Do Justice: “(It) must become a standard of living by which Christians make choices... This means being mindful, conscious, and aware, so that never again can we make a decision about buying or using without thinking about the poor. They lurk in the new-car lot and behind the rack of fall outfits. They sit beside you in the restaurant and wait for you in the voting booth.”

Learn from the World Community: “Some ideas from the international community on improving American life include better public transportation, cooking better, reducing waste and (ouch) building simpler, less expensive facilities for churches.”

Nurture People: “For many people, security is the life insurance policy, the pre-paid college education, the expanding business, the comfortable retirement plan. All these are choices that seem to nurture. Yet too often these choices mean second jobs, late working hours, frequent long-distance travel, and no one at home when children come home from school.”

Cherish the Natural Order: “Today we own the machines for full-scale plunder of our environment... We need not give up manufacturing, but we must make ethical choices between factory pollution and human health. Finding these blends means that we consciously choose to fit the way we live to the environment, not trying to reshape the environment to our whims.”

Nonconform Freely: “We need to be always on the alert not to become carried away with the ‘bigger and better’ slogans of our society. We have the example of Christ and a higher purpose for our earthly life. The young must be taught to appreciate the freedom of not being enslaved to material things.”

Check out my more mundane musings at Life on Olive Street. As I make small changes, I hope to share some personal applications of my own living more with less.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Uncomplicating Alcohol By The Numbers

Disclaimer: This post is for responsible adults of age who have decided that drinking alcohol on occasion is ok. If you're a teetotaler and don't agree, that's ok too. I personally am not a heavy drinker, I don't advocate heavy drinking, you can do as you choose, don't drink & drive, etc. etc. etc. Feeling appropriately disclaimed? I hope so. Moving on.

I like beer. If you're ever in Philadelphia, hit up City Tavern. They brew certain beers according to some recipes of the founding fathers. It's good!

Two things about alcohol:
  1. It's high calorie
  2. It's relatively expensive
So how can we make the best choices regarding our calorie intake & money output?

MATH. Don't freak out, someone else already did the ratio calculations for us.

If you're more worried about calorie intake, Get Drunk Not Fat presents various alcoholic beverages with an assigned ratio of calories to grams of alcohol. The lower the ratio, the better. For instance, a rum & diet coke has a ratio of 19.7 whereas a rum & coke has a ratio of 37.7. Thus, for the same amount of alcohol, the rum & diet coke will have less calories. Most light beers are in the 23-30 range. The highest ratios are for non or low alcohol "beers" since they barely have any alcohol which skews the stats (but who drinks those for the alcohol anyway??). If you don't want to drink your calories, try to avoid the TGIF On The Rocks Mudslide (731 calories & a ratio of 73.1).

If you're more worried about the expense of alcohol, Get Drunk Not Broke presents the price per 1 oz of alcohol. I found this list hilarious since the top twenty-five are a mix of somewhat high quality alcohol, cheap beer, & Franzia boxed wine. Example- Keystone Ice is $.93 per ounce of alcohol. Jose Cuervo Especial Gold is $.97 per ounce.

And if you care about both your waistline & wallet, the clear choice is Everclear. If you care about neither, try Bailey's Irish Cream. But if you care about taste & enjoyment, just buy the Irish Cream, pour over crushed ice to enjoy, & dump the Everclear down the toilet where it belongs.

This won't stop me from enjoying a Fat Tire Ale every now & then, but for my general consumption, I feel justified that my standby of Michelob Ultra is a decent choice.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Follow the Power of Your Dreams! But Please Be Nice About It

It's the motivational cry across the world (or at least the US)- "Follow your dreams! Live intentionally! Be the change in the world you want to see!"

Yes, that is just dandy. But in the meantime, please stop being a royal stinkpot that the rest of us have to put up with. I'm no
Emily Post, but there are a few things I believe we should all be cognizant of in our daily lives while we're all out following our dreams. How we act towards others is a direct reflection of our true character. However, this only applies if our true character is one that legitimately cares about how we affect other people.

You can thank Emily Post for this one- “Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.”

So, a few habits that can make each & every one of us easier to be around. I’m the first to admit, I’m really not perfect, but I’m a work in progress.

  1. Clean up after yourself. Especially if you live with other people, be it your mother, significant other, or roommates. Don’t make them clean up after the mess you made.
  2. Say please & thank you. Nobody owes you anything, so don’t treat anybody like a second-class citizen who only exists to appease your every whim. Let’s be appreciative of what others do for us.
  3. Open doors for people. And it’s not just a rule for guys. Even if you are a girl, recognize when someone else is heading the same direction as you and take the opportunity to do something special. Especially if that person is pushing a stroller, a pregnant lady, an elderly person, someone with their hands full of stuff, etc. It takes being aware of your surroundings.
  4. Tip. It’s a great way to show appreciation.
  5. Don’t take out your frustrations on the little guys. The customer service representative on the other end of the phone didn’t set the policy that overcharged you $30 on your last bill, and they’re only getting paid like $7 an hour. (Exception- if you’re talking to a representative from AT&T, your health insurance company, or your local cable company, all bets are off! You can say whatever you need to in whatever tone to get the job done.)
  6. Every now & then, offer to be the designated driver. Give your “responsible” friend the night off.
  7. Stop texting at: family dinners, formal concerts, the movie theatre, church, weddings, funerals, class, any small-group hangout, poker games, etc. Do you like it when people keep interrupting you to tap away on their phones?
  8. Send thank you notes/emails. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or over the top. Just a note of appreciation for a gift or something kind someone else did.
  9. If someone is explaining a problem, don’t automatically describe their perfect solution. This one is extremely difficult for me. Most of the time though, people talk about their problems to vent & not because they actually want a solution. Conversely, don’t explain a problem to someone else unless you’re ready to hear their advice on the situation.
  10. RSVP. If invited to something, do the host the courtesy of RSVPing and try your hardest to actually follow through with what you responded. This is the most important if formally invited to official events like weddings, but also goes for most evites & Facebook events. For many events, people are trying to plan for food and beverages, so it’s best to let them know if you’re coming or not. It’s a bit rude to not reply anything & wait around for the bigger-better deal. A “maybe” is somewhat better than not replying anything.

What other general courtesy items can be added to the list?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sweeto Fritos

If you want to cut to the chase, here's the original recipe I made from New Nostalgia for my book club tonight. Amy calls them Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Caramel Funky Fritos, but that was too many syllables for me, hence Sweeto Fritos. The recipe has four ingredients (yay), is simple (awesome), and is seriously delicious (WIN)! My book club enjoyed them very much.

Sweeto Fritos

Spread 1 bag Fritos around a cookie sheet or 9 x 13 pan or something. Combine 1 cup white sugar & 1 cup corn syrup in a sauce pan or microwave safe bowl. Heat with your preferred method until boiling. Add 1 cup peanut butter. Pour mixture over Fritos. Sprinkle with M&M's or candy corn if you want. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Note- the saucy stuff tastes better after it's been refrigerated, so don't attempt to adjust it by taste right after making it.

And here's the rambling backstory.

I have 3 roommates. There's a lot of randomness that happens. Mostly, the randomness is really fun & good (spur of the moment croquet, meeting lots of new people, etc.), but occasionally it forces flexibility.

Our fridge door was cracked open for the better part of yesterday. If you've never left a fridge door slightly cracked before, here's what happens. The fridge works itself into a frenzy trying to keep the fridge cold but can never keep up. To make this worse, the light bulb in the fridge stays on & ends up heating up the fridge. Yes, the heat from the bulb was so intense, it melted a stick of butter. Thus today, I had to throw out all my food in the fridge.

I hate throwing away food. My consolation was that I got to keep the nectarines, beer, & Sriracha hot sauce. Not a great set-up for concocting a potluck dish for book club though.

However, a similar fridge situation happened last fall, and I learned my lesson! Only stockpile non-perishables. Thus with non-perishables on-hand, Sweeto Fritos were perfect!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lumberjack Heroines?

A few years ago, yes, I too read the entire Twilight series. I enjoyed them. They are fluff but still entertaining. Recently, I started reading The Hunger Games, a series dubbed by some as "the next Twilight." I'm only just starting the second book, but it's entertaining.

The Hunger Games just might be "the next Twilight" for several reasons.
  • Both heroines run around in lumberjack/hunter garb
  • Both heroines are under attack from some larger-than-life entity (army of vampires, the Capitol)
  • Both heroines are in such frequent and dangerous peril that they require not one, but TWO love interests to continually save them from death & dying
  • Both heroines apparently require multiple novels of somewhat stilted emotional dialog to hash out their romantic feelings
Perhaps this is the new way of telling fairy tales. Growing up, fairy tales were straightforward lore of girls in fabulous clothes (occasionally they were poor girls who eventually got fabulous clothes) who found themselves in some sort of peril (dragons, witches, etc.) when ONE man shows up in the nick of time, they fall madly in love, and (of course) live happily ever after. The story can be told quickly in one book.

So what's the deal with taking three or four books to hash out feelings while wearing plaid tunics? I demand a return to fabulous clothes, monogamous death-defying rescues, and simple realizations that said-rescuing prince is indeed THE ONE, I love him, end of story. Can you imagine the outcry if Snow White, upon her awakening by the prince, sat up and said, "Well hey, thanks. You're really hot and all, but I'm not really sure how I feel about you since that one dwarf was super duper great too. Here, why don't you just hang out while I spend two more books emotionally torturing you while I talk about my feelings? By the way, we're creating flair buttons for the readers that say "Team Prince" & "Team Dwarf". How's that sound sweety?"

Come to think of it though, Snow White probably wouldn't have actually been awakened by a prince if she followed the Twilight/Hunger Games fashion approach. Girls sleeping in the woods wearing flannel shirts and baggy jeans are treated like they would be sleeping in the woods for a legitimate reason, ex. they were camping, got tired, and took a nap. Unless the prince is super creepy, those girls don't get kissed awake; they are left to sleep in the woods.

So give me frilly dresses, standard villains, no chatter about feelings, and the reassurance that I only need one knight in shining armor riding around on a white horse. I'm an old-fashioned curmudgeon; I prefer the fairy tales of old.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Optimism- A Quick List

My five-minutes-over-my-lunchbreak list of ways to be more positive throughout the day-
  1. Hide negative people on Twitter or your Facebook newsfeed
  2. Send a random "hey" text to a friend
  3. Skip complaining at least once
  4. Drink more water
  5. Find something that makes you laugh (this did it for me today)
  6. Take a walk on your break
  7. Clean something
  8. Smile because you can!
  9. Be happy you don't have to wear this-


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuna Puttanesca

I normally don't try recipes with fancy names. In my world of stereotypes, fancy names mean something is complicated, expensive, and pretentious, adjectives I prefer to avoid. However, my sister shared this recipe for Linguine with Tuna Puttanesca with me & it's really, really great (mostly because it's pretty simple, economical, and only sounds pretentious). Plus the recipe calls for four cloves of garlic. WIN!

Here's the real recipe. I've tweaked it a bit for my purposes so the only "complicated" ingredient is the capers, so who knows, it might not even be authentic Puttanesca anymore. Also, I prefer a higher ratio of saucy stuff to my pasta, so I halved the pasta amount. With that tweak, it makes about 3-4 servings.

Tuna Puttanesca, my style

6 oz or so of whatever pasta is sitting around
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 T capers, drained
1/2 cup or more roughly chopped black or kalamata olives
1 normal size can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 can tuna, drained (I used water packed)
salt to taste

Make the pasta according to the directions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until slightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the capers and olives and fry 2 more minutes. Add can of tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt to taste and cook until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tuna, breaking it up with a fork, and season with salt.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water, and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and the reserved cooking water and toss.

Here's the batch I made tonight. I just got back from Utah & had all the ingredients on hand except the olives, so those are missing. I like the salty flavor the olives add, but it's still quite tasty without.