Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Green Is The New Black

For a while, when I was in my twenties, I was, like, a rabid Marxist eco-warrior type. And vegan, to boot. Which means that, you would only have found me fun if you were also a vegan Marxist eco-warrior type, which itself means that you probably living, like me, in the Pacific Northwest and studying something useless like philosophy or cultural studies or the history of new social movements and prone to get drunk on organic wine coolers and pontificating loudly about how cow farts were burning holes in the ozone. (Or, in one case, getting drunk at a wedding at the Georgian Club in Vancouver and lecturing the entire room on the evils of veal. That My Bad Husband stuck with me after that is testament to his deep and abiding love for me, and his tolerance for my weirdness if it means that he'll be gettin' some later.)

Anyway. I grew out of it. Which is not to say that I grew out of my concern for the health and well-being of the planet, but that I realized that - once the baby-doll-dress-and-army-uniform of the vegan grunge grrl squad passed out of fashion - I didn't like the clothes. And that I did, actually, really like cheese, and that I had a weak spot for leather bags and shoes and that it was, accordingly, getting harder and harder to (literally and figuratively) walk my talk. Also, I figured out that Marxism really had very little to do with Marx, and that Nietzsche was far more interesting, but that it's far less interesting to get drunk and stand on chairs and ramble on about what he really meant when he said that God was dead than it is to get drunk and be all militant about some cause or another.

So I gradually became a quiet environmentalist. And, I gotta say, a sorta lazy environmentalist. It's easy to be rigorous when you're militant, because rigor is your schtick. But when you've already slid partway down the slippery slope of leather shoes into complete environmental irresponsibility, you find that you're more likely to lay back and slide on your ass and hope that the reverse traction caused by your butt-cellulite - packed on by all that cheese - slows your descent.

It's the lazy environmentalist in me that loves The Green Book, by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen (with contributions from people like Will Ferrell and Jennifer Aniston and Tyra Banks and other people who have no cellulite and so need more effective ways to keep from sliding down slippery slopes). It's cute and (yes) green and it fits in my Coach bag and its exactly the sort of cunning little book that I can whip out while I'm on the subway or pushing the stroller through the park and peruse tips for making my life more green. Easy tips. Tips like, don't take your ATM receipt. And, brush your teeth in the shower (this from Jennifer Aniston, who, you know, could probably afford a whole separate tooth-brushing room complete with on-call dental hygienist). And, ditch your answering machine (though really, who hasn't done this already?) And, use Blu-ray discs instead of traditional cds (more storage, more recyclable - I did not know this). And - wait for it - look for shoes and bags made with recycled materials (there're all variety of cute ones out there - Matt & Nat, based in Montreal, make gorgeous stuff.)

Like I said, easy. And easy makes it more likely that I'll act. And acting more... well, that takes me a step further. That takes me closer - back to, forward to - that place where I get really, really passionate about these things. Where I want to do more, regardless of whether it's easy or not.

Where I get drunk and preach the virtues of caring for our planet.

That's a good place to be. And if The Green Book works as a little bit of guidebook for that journey, and a little bit of kick in the pants, that's a pretty awesome thing.

Go, find it. Read it. Use it. It beats calling for a culling of old people.

Loving the earth doesn't mean you can't wear hot pink boots.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Garage Sale America: Your Field Guide to Pop Anthropology

It's a good thing that I read this book thoroughly when I first received it, like, weeks and weeks ago, because someone stole it. Probably my sister, because she loves garage sales with a passionate intensity akin only, I think, to that felt by little old church ladies for bake sales (weak in the knees for a good shortbread, these women. I know it.) Anyway, to report that the book was stolen is really to give it the highest recommendation possible: she wanted that book bad. Which is totally understandable, because if you like garage sales and you like smart and funny and aesthetically delightful books, Bruce Greenfield's Garage Sale America is totally for you.

I like garage sales. Not as much as my sister, but enough to have accompanied my sister on umpteen gazillion garage sale hunting expeditions over the years. (For the record, I do not like hosting garage sales, or yard sales, or anything of that ilk. I am allergic to selling things. I break out in a cold sweat and a rash.)

For me, though, the whole point of a garage sale is not to buy things (though I have done that, for sure - have I ever told you about the time that I found a set of perfectly preserved, art deco New York postcards? Complete with personal messages to Mildred in Salem on the back? Awesome.) The whole point of a garage sale expedition is to conduct social sciences research. It's to engage in sociological analysis. It's field work in cultural studies. It's anthropology in action.

This is what Bruce Littlefield, author of Garage Sale America, gets, and this is why I love his book and his website. Garage sale enthusiasts are not (just) junk junkies, not (just) Bargain Betties - they're anthropological warriors. They are burrowing deep into the soil of North American (I'm adding the 'North', because Canada has garage sales, too) culture and digging up artifacts and reflecting upon the evolution of a living civilization.

Remember when people wore roller skates, rather than blades? (I do, because I once found a pair of lightly scuffed 70's vintage white roller skates with red wheels that transported me back to Xanadu and doing turns in my suburban driveway to My Sharona and pretending that I was Olivia Newton John.) Remember Super-8 movie cameras? (My husband and I have three, along with a vintage Super-8 compatible projector, on which we have screened our Super-8 short films, because, yes, you can still buy Super-8 film and is anything more unbearably hipster than shooting Super-8 films and screening them for your unbearably hipster friends?) Remember polyester pantsuits? Polyester shorts pantsuits?

Polyester shorts pantsuits for children?

If you find a polyster shorts pantsuit for children, you can buy it, and put it on your child, and take pictures. For the purposes of anthropological analysis, of course. Just take care to not allow your child out into sunlight, lest the outfit burst into flame.

If I could find a pair of tiny vintage white roller skates and The Knack on vinyl, I could have WonderBaby re-enact entire scenes from my childhood, which I could film on Super-8 and screen at dinner parties where I'd serve Kraft Dinner and Wonderbread with Hawaiian Punch and make everybody discuss whether it's better to be able to roller skate to music or to crunk to it and whether we have indeed come a long way, baby. It'd be a super-awesome anthropo-po-mo-pop-culture salon, and it'd rock.

And I'd totally invite Bruce Littlefield. Because if I can find those skates and that vinyl, it'll be entirely due to the inspiration derived from his field guide to pop anthropology. (I'll be getting my tips and assistance from his website - which is almost as much fun as the book, and has the added advantage of an anthropological warrior blog - until my sister sends the book back. But I'm not holding my breath.)

What are/were your best finds? Tell me in the comments!

(This review is part of the Parent Blogger Network's Garage Sale America tour.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

True Blue Summer

We loveses the blueberries here at WonderBaby World Headquarters. LOVE. It's one of the very few things that WonderBaby will eat without hesitation, and so there are always, always blueberries in the fridge, or preserved in the freezer for thawing into granola or smoothies. WonderBaby eats them, I eat them, and Her Bad Father eats them by the fistful.

So when a package filled with bottles of TrueBlueberry Juice arrived on the doorstep we were all pretty excited. (WonderBaby: "Boo! BOO!" Knows her colours, she does.) Her Bad Father immediately absconded with the smaller bottles of blueberry and pomegranate and blueberry and blackberry blend and downed them before I even knew what had happened.

I, however, was a little more reticent: there's added cane sugar, and I try to avoid sugars (I generally exceed my sugar quota in my illicit consumption of chocolate.) I've never understood why fruit juices need added sugar - fruit is plenty sweet as it is. That, and I'm glucose intolerant, so any unnecessary sugar in my diet needs to be avoided. So I limited myself to small glass of the stuff. Which was, I have to say, very good. And, we are talking cane sugar, after all. Waaay down on the ingredients list. And no other additives, at all. So even a purist should approve.

It was just as well that I didn't claim it all for myself, because Her Bad Father loved it. Drank it straight, drank it with sparkling water, drank it with vodka. LOVED it. Loved it especially with the vodka, I think, but still. LOVED.

And really, how can one go one wrong with sparkling blueberry drinks in the summer? With Bluetinis? Please. You know you want some.

(Check out Ruth Dynamite's Dynamite TrueBlueberry Blueberrypolitan recipe, too. And her other ideas for using the juice. In salad dressing! In homemade popsicles! Yum.)


On the topic of summertime goodness, you may be interested to know that Oroweat is having a contest for a $50,000 Perfect Patio Kitchen (and no, they did not send me one. Nor did they give me any kind of bread - green or whole wheat - to link to them. I just think that it's a wild promo.) They're pushing the healthy eating, and who doesn't want a patio kitchen, on which you can, like, grill blueberry burgers for 200 hundred of your friends and neighbours? Seriously. It's a BIG KITCHEN. With a Bose entertainment system and flat screen TV and mega-grill. It won't fit in my backyard but it might fit in yours. For some dad out there, this is the ultimate Father's Day gift. Check out the details on the Ultimate Grill Tour and the contest at

Summer is blue sky and blueberries and big barbecues. And ice cream.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Time In A Bottle. Or A Boobie.

In the early days of WonderBaby, my time was measured out in a tidy little journal that I tended to obsessively. Every nursing session, every nap, every shit and piss and spit was dutifully recorded: when, where and how. My time, in other words, was managed retrospectively: I was flying by the seat of my maternity pants, and then carefully applying a schedule to that flight after the fact.

It wasn't particularly elegant, but it was a system, and it worked for me.

It worked, in part, because WonderBaby was pretty predictable in every respect save for napping, and in (larger) part because I had absolutely nothing to do but nurse and change diapers and wipe up shit and and tend to ravaged nipples and maybe get in the odd weekly shower and generally try to keep from going insane. It also worked because there was no time in the interstices of those activities: I just did the work of mothering, I didn't think about it, I didn't plan it, I didn't schedule it, I just did it. Where there is no time, there is no need for a schedule.

Now, however, things are different. The work of motherhood is, in many respects less intense, less filled with anxiety, but it is, at the same time, more difficult to manage. My boobs don't tell me when it's time to feed WonderBaby, as they used to. And they certainly don't tell me when swim class begins, or when our next appointment with the pediatrician is scheduled, or when we're due to meet her posse at the park. Which is a shame, because that would be really convenient, except for the leakage part.

Which is to say: I can no longer follow the rhythms of my own time, and apply order to those rhythms after the fact. WonderBaby's rhythms and my rhythms are no longer in tune, and our time is no longer completely our own. We have lives now, mother and daughter, outside of our cave, and with those lives come schedules and timetables and appointments and watches and clocks. With those lives comes time, and goes time.

With this life, my feet have become tangled in time. It comes and it goes and it swirls around me and I cannot pin it down, hold it firm, keep it still long enough to seize control of it. So I fly by the seat of my pants (mercifully, no longer maternity), but am now unable to impose order retroactively. I no longer have my little book. I am no longer in control of my chaos, because it lives outside of me, and beyond the reach of any little book. It's just chaos.

But we manage. We make it to the park, to the playgroups, to the pediatrican, usually. WonderBaby gets her meals, and (knocking knocking knocking SO LOUDLY on wood right now) her naps (yes, she naps, after such a long period of abstinence. A miracle. KNOCK WOOD), and everything else that she needs for a good life, a rich life. And I manage. I meet most of my responsibilities. I tilt and spin through the day trying to keep track, trying to remember, trying to stay ahead of everything that I have to stay ahead of. Always, I fail, in big ways or in very, very small ways, but the days still go by and we keep moving on and every day still feels pretty awfully good. But still - at the end of each of those days, I ask myself, where did the time go?

I know: it didn't go anywhere. It spun around me and it tripped me, or tried to, and at the end of each day its memory sticks to the heels of my feet like so much tattered, wasted toilet paper.

Which is where it will be tomorrow, too.

And the next day, and the next, and all our yesterdays, too.


This is posted as part of the current Parent Bloggers Blog Blast: 'Where Does My Time GO?" which celebrates both BlogHer (could win a registration! will give away! whoot!*) and
Light Iris – a site for moms featuring a specialized Google search which will - YES - help you to get more control over your time.

*Yep. Will give away the BlogHer registration if this post is drawn as a winner. But if not - there's still one to give away over at
MommyBlogsToronto... Check it out - you have until June 15th!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Politics of Hot Dogs

School cafeterias always terrified me.

My family moved frequently, and so I was always the new girl, and while it's a pretty straightforward thing to get your bearings in the classrooms where there are well-meaning teacher saying things like 'look, class, we have new student today; please don't terrorize her,' it's quite another story in the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is anarchy. The high school cafeteria, in particular, is the social epicentre of a naturally lawless society that strains against the rules and strictures that are imposed upon it in every other corner of the institution to which it is confined. In the classroom, the inmates follow the rules. In the hallways, in the gymnasium, in the library - the norms are set by the adults. In the cafeteria, however, the students rule, with no greater restraint than that offered by a few hair-netted food service professionals. It is their space, and their time, to do with what they will, and they organize themselves therein anarchically - no law, just conventions, those informal but nonetheless intractable social mores determining where people sit and with whom people speak that are usually impossible for outsiders to decode. It is, for a newcomer or an outcast - terrifying.

So I almost always, in the first weeks of my attendance at a new school, and sometimes for much longer, brought my own lunch and sat in the hall with a book and affected nonchalance. I would nibble at my peanut butter sandwich or my crackers and cheese and keep my nose well-tucked between the pages of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, or, later, The Bell Jar and pretend to not hear the hoots and hollers and not smell the hot greasy fries from down the hall. My mother was well-pleased that I insisted upon bringing my own lunch - she, too, had a horror of school cafeterias, although hers was culinary rather than, like mine, existential or social - and gladly spent an extra twenty minutes every morning fashioning sandwiches and fruit boxes and murmurming to herself about how wonderful a thing that I did not like hot dogs and soda pop. As it goes, I didn't like hot dogs or pretty much anything that was ordinarily served in school cafeterias in the late eighties, but this was not why I avoided them. My distaste for cafeteria cuisine only served as a convenient truth, facilitating my efforts to avoid the cafeteria without alerting anxious grown-ups to my social fears.

I always got to the cafeteria eventually. I inevitably made friends and formed bonds and became attuned to the language and the mores of the tribe and was able to move among them and, eventually, enter their social arena without fear. So it was that I, too, would move slowly along the food line, refusing the hot dogs and the limp fries and maybe, maybe, selecting a yogurt to accompany the home-packed lunches that I still brought with me, every day.

Just in case. And because I never developed a taste for hot dogs.

Too cool for hot dogs, but not too cool for ice cream and shaaaades. Basically: NOT TOO COOL.

I went to some pretty nice schools - some public, some private, some Catholic - and none of them ever had a school menu program or an program that got families involved in the business of feeding the kids. The cafeterias at every school that I attended were strictly utilitarian, and tended toward menus that featured fries and hamburgers and hot dogs and all the things that as a casual vegetarian and wannabe epicure I hated as a kid (I know. GEEK.) My experience, then, might have been different had there been programs that looked anything like School Menu or Family Everyday , sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents. Which is the sort of thing that kids roll their eyes at, usually, but which would have made a tremendous difference to my experience as a kid. Cafeterias were not for eating - and how could they be, when they didn't really serve food? Why NOT throw greasy fries around, or cold hot dogs?

I'm not saying that a healthy eating program would have changed the politics of the cafeteria - I'm certain that it wouldn't - but it would have given me more of a reason to fight my way in there (or have my mom shove me in. Which, now, as a mom, I think is a really good idea.)

Check both of these sites out: they're worth supporting.