Saturday, December 29, 2007

Presents & Time

This year we decided to go cold turkey and not spend Christmas day with my larger family. It was strange. No uncomfortable conversations, no wondering if anyone would drink too much, no need to see the goblins go crazy with too much stuff under the tree, yet experience some strange sense of lack--not in that sense of "gifts don't fulfill me, I just want quality time with my family" but in the sense of "I know there was one more present I wanted." Actually, my family is not all that bad. The kids really appreciate their gifts, and the food is always enjoyable. But, it was refreshing and simple to stay home.

So, this Christmas morning, I woke knowing that I would be spending the day with my beautiful baby Ezra and my incredible husband. I know, I know. So many sappy adjectives! But, I really do love these two more than I knew possible--and I got to spend the whole day with them! We only had stocking gifts for each other. AJ bought me a beautiful fair trade purse made in Thailand. I gave him organic socks, elephant shaped hot mitts and a bar of fair trade chocolate. Ezra received a little wooden train painted with vegetable dyes.

Indulgent friends Lauren and Nico sent Ezra awesome gifts--also from a fair trade store online.
An elephant on wheels, an abc block set in beautiful bright colors in a wooden cart, and a shape sorter in primary colors.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is we are doing it and it feels good! Friends are tuning in, and only getting us things they made or that are by craftspersons, or are second hand. We're not changing the world, but we are changing our consumer impact.

You may wonder if this is just a rambling to consumerism. I know buying is not the answer, even though our president tells us to go out and buy. But, if you must buy, then why not buy used, or sustainable, socially humane gifts?

It far time to log off and go hang with the dudes.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fair Trade Shopping during a Recession & the Story of Stuff

Like the rest of you, I had a run of holiday parties this past weekend. Thursday, The Sustainability Project holiday party. A lovely evening at Living Green, a store in Santa Barbara behind the Spearmint Rhino (hmmm . . . what's with all the shades of green?). The TSP party featured 100 mile diet foods--a delicious spread of vegetables, soft cheeses, fruits--a much easier diet to keep when you live in Southern California. Great conversations and further inspiration to do good. Check out Living Green when you have a chance! You can purchase many healthy items for your home if you have the dinero.

Friday night was the famous HH near-Christmas party hosted by George and Amy. Their house is always so festive. Great people, clever decorations and insightful conversations. Did I mention great wine and beer? Baby Ezra was passed around, beaming his smile and lighting up the evening. Adorable children abounded at this event, including Sophia, Nathan and baby George, the latter within a few days of Ezra. Cookie Jill and I got into a lengthy conversation about how to really help people. It seems the answer, as always, is to get involved and educate. I suggested she run for public office, as she has a lot of knowledge and a passion for justice. That should be the basis for public office, don't you think?

Oh, back to the recession. Despite the pending recession, we went out and purchased a hideous white elephant gift for the White Elephant Cocktail Party at Charles and Matty's swinging household. I must say that my man has exquisite taste when it comes to intentionally picking out hidea (that must be a word!). He found the epitome of the white elephant gift; a ceramic musical piggy bank made in China. This creatura had black beady eyes and a series of flowers painted over its fat, pink, glossy torso. We weren't the only ones to appreciate its horror. It was one of the top picks of the evening and was greeted by applause and screams at the party! Oh, at the same party, I spoke with Linda C, and she has a very smart brother who is in finance who is "annoyingly mostly right most of the time" with his opinions, and HE says we're going into a recession and that the housing market is going down for another few years.

So I'm spouting second hand information here, but what gives? Are we really at a point where we have to face our consumer cycle of debt, spending, overworking, spending and more debt? Could it be that the high cost of low prices is finally catching up with us in more ways than one? I hope so. I say this as I hope a recession will help America to shift its unsustainable practices and become more responsible and accountable as a nation. I would never wish for a recession, and I realize it could shift us out of the comfort zone that keeps us all afloart. I KNOW its not that simple.

That brings me to the story of stuff.I have to say I'm very impressed with an amazingly straight forward, humorous and inspiring video I saw online as of recent forwarded via Dutch friend Tessa Lippman:

It really makes you want to NOT BUY anything. Then again, what about the fair trade items out there? Wouldn't that be a true example of voting with your dollars? for example has items that are beautiful, medium priced, fair trade and made of recycled materials. Am I fooling myself by continuing to think about shopping? I'm still a consumer at heart. How ingrained is the habit and how hard is it to break? Does anyone know? I know its all based on personal experience, but I KNOW people have opinions.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fair Indigo at the Shed

Here is the link to the white shirt I plan to purchase in January once the 2008 monthly budgeting for fair trade clothing is underway.

I'd love a collection of links from others who have found fair trade, sustainable, classic clothing that isn't more than twice what we'd pay at a department store.

I'm going to temporarily try "Google Ads" to see if they will advertise fair trade, sustainable items that are good for the environment or help people. The first ad seems to be on the right track. What do others think of ads? Is it selling out, or does it make sense?

What Would Jesus Buy?

We fear that many of the items we purchase at department stores are made in sweat shops, and I have yet to meet a sales clerk who can definitively tell me which products are made under humane circumstances and which are not. As one XBOX 360 seeking adolescent in "What Would Jesus Buy?" said, its "mind boggling" to try to figure out where these products come from . . . he went on to say he didn't really care, but given a chance to fully understand the issue--I mean, if he met a kid his age working under harsh conditions for just pennies an hour to make him a shirt--he would most likely feel bad and want that person to have a better working situation.

That same 'mind boggling' question has allowed me to float in a sense of consumer helplessness, buying what I need when I need it despite the potential economic contribution to child labor, because the rat's nest of globalization goods and bads is just too hard to sort out. Or is it? After watching "What Would Jesus Buy?", I had a major break through. I know in my conscience what is right to do, and yet I've been letting confusion and a sense of helplessness lead to contradictory actions. This activist documentary humorously ended the debate for me. I no longer want to purchase ANYTHING that leads to children suffering or adult suffering for that matter.

So how do I make the transition? There are more factors than buying habits at stake. I associate fair trade wears with funky designs not plausible for the office unless you are going for a 'cultural' look that contradicts your basic style sense. After the movie, I went online to COOP America and searched for a basic white dress shirt that is sustainably made and fair trade.I found one for $49, with a picture of the cooperative my purchase supports. Yeah, I can get a button down white shirt at Macy's for half the price, but what am I supporting? If plan ahead I can budget for my purchases, buy less, pay more, and put my money, limited though it may be, where my mouth is! Whew hew!!! That sounds like a New Year's Resolution in the making!

Fair Trade involves the following principles:
Producers receive a fair price - a living wage
Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed
Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships
Producers have access to financial and technical assistance
Sustainable production techniques are encouraged
Working conditions are healthy and safe
Equal employment opportunities are provided for all
All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability

Let's share links with one another for cool clothes that follow these principles--of course the closer to home the better!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hollandia in the 21st Century

After months of anticipation, and harried last minute packing, we left for Europe. I'd like to just float on the word Europe for a few moments. It sounds so big, so cosmopolitan, so diverse. Yet, we went to just one tiny country; Holland, the homeland of mijn maan. For two and a half weeks, I did not have to drive into work, turn on a computer, or grapple with questions about our lives in Santa Barbara, because I was completely immersed in my surroundings. Usually I find it hard to let travel take me in immediately. I attribute my newfound present state of mind to my buddha baby who constantly pulls me into the moment.

Highlights: introducing Ezra to the Dutch clan; Seeing Ezra wave for the first time; Cruising around Delft at night; playing a soprano saxophone in a small music shop; Dining at a fabulous Portuguese restaurant in Zierikzee--an ancient fishing village in Southern Holland; a fab hotel in Middelburg, also in Southern Holland in the Zeeland province; watching an 1850s strip show in a Middelburg museum; walking my old haunts in Amsterdam; friends & relatives; public transporation that works; bicycles, canals and lots of weed. Oh, well, not really. No coffee shops for mama! Ahh, and Ijburg, a Dutch polder where we stayed with friends who own a beautiful new 3 story flat in the midst of a contemporary enclave. Very hip.

Here's Ezra taking in the historic sites of his father's homeland:

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why we should Walk

Yesterday as I waited for a friend to come by in her car so we could drive to the beach to go for a walk, I read an article about the evil automobile in The New Yorker. (Yes, I see the irony here, if irony is indeed the correct word). It was written by one of my heroes, Elizabeth Kolbert. I bet you anything, if Bush could read, or let's just say that one of his aides or Laura or one of his daughters read it to him, he would make a strong suggestion to China and India that they 'not become automobile dependent societies.' Articles like this make me feel a tad shameful. I mean, what sort of air will Ezra be breathing 20 years from now? And, what about his kids? We'll be old geezers by then (some of us), and that toxic air will be a burden, part of the scarlet alphabet branded upon our conscience.

Here's an excerpt:

Consider what’s happening in India and China. As Carson and Vaitheeswaran point out, car ownership in both countries has been and still remains, by U.S. standards, almost absurdly low. There are nine personal vehicles per thousand eligible drivers in China and eleven for every thousand Indians, compared with 1,148 for every thousand Americans. But incomes in the two countries are rising so rapidly—the Chinese economy grew by eleven per cent last year and is expected to grow by the same amount this year—that millions of vehicleless families will soon be in a position to buy automobiles. Assuming that incomes continue to rise, in a few years tens of millions of families will be buying their first cars, and eventually hundreds of millions. (To satisfy increasing demand in India, the country’s second-largest auto manufacturer, Tata Motors, is set to start producing a four-door known as the one-lakh car—a lakh is a hundred thousand rupees—that will sell for the equivalent of twenty-five hundred dollars.) Were China and India to increase their rates of car ownership to the point where per-capita oil consumption reached just half of American levels, the two countries would burn through a hundred million additional barrels a day. (Currently, total global oil use is eighty-six million barrels a day.) Were they to match U.S. consumption levels, they would require an extra two hundred million barrels a day. It’s difficult to imagine how such enormous quantities of oil could be found, but, if they could, the result would be catastrophe. “Just consider the scale of the potential problem—for instance, the effect on global warming of seven hundred and fifty million more cars in India and China, belching carbon dioxide,” Carson and Vaitheeswaran write.

You can read the full article at this link.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Meter maids smiling

While walking toward work on Friday, a meter maid saw me in her little tag car, stopped at an intersection without a crosswalk, smiled and waved for me to cross the street. A shocking experience and the first of its kind in my knowledge bank. How could this happen? Well, yes, as a matter of fact I did have a baby strapped to me kangaroo style and yes, I agree, he does have a terrific smile.

That same day, I was one of the lucky winners of the office Halloween contest, AND my baby slept through the night four nights in a row! (THat's all changed now, but damn, it was good while it lasted.).

Hollandia is calling AND I remembered the time change for the first time in three years.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Waters a wasting

In Architecture magazine this month, I came across an ad for an ultra luxury shower with five shower heads, allowing a 'spa' like treatment at home. THe lucky homeowners can have 22 gallons of water per minute flowing over them. Wow, how cool! Wow, how absolutely insane! How can the creators of this 5-headed medusa live with themselves? With a very fat pay check, I'm sure. This should be illegal. In fact, take this, randomly selected from a California city's water municipal code: "No later than January 1, 1992, every showerhead shall emit no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute." We know drought. We take water seriously. Or do we?

Manufacturers of this insane 'daily spa experience' go around the law by installing multiple shower heads. Yet, Severe drought is gripping our nation in multiple areas. Water is a precious commodity. Georgia, Alabama and Florida are experiencing extreme drought and shutting off people's water taps because there's just no water left.

Anyway, love, peace and namaste!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow's Eve

The big E had two costumes to choose from his first Halloween: cow or pumpkin. How does one get to a point, so quickly, of dressing up one's little human like a dolly? I suppose I knew it was in me, but I had no idea it was in my husband! He picked out the cow outfit, horns, tail and all. (At least there were no udders involved).

Out there, on the corridor between Ortega and Haley on State Street, adults and children in adult bodies are cruising the bars, wearing 'nefarious' clothing. In the neighborhoods, children are cruising for candy, and in a little apartment on the west side, a mom is feeding a baby a hand made meal in his high chair while husband is preparing dinner. I'd say that times have changed on many fronts for us. And we love it!

A shout out to Lilyana, who is also celebrating her first Halloween! I saw here in a get up earlier today, and she's one cute tiger!

And . . . if you want to see something scary, you must inquire about the mermaid doll knit by Queen Whackomole.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Does movie popcorn have GMOs?

Last night, my man and I had a wonderful sitter who loves our little guy, and we went out to a movie with a clear conscience knowing he was in good hands. My man agreed to see The Jane Austen Book Club. Since it's hard to coordinate getting out of the house, we arrived at the Riviera without dinner in our bellies, so we decided on some popcorn and a soda. I already know not to ask about the soda, but I asked the handsome, flirtatious boy man behind the counter a simple question about the popcorn that any sane person would ask.

"Is this popcorn made from genetically modified corn?" The smile left his face and he looked around for packaging, as if it would just give him the answer.
"Orville Redenbacher," he said. "I think that's a pretty good brand."
"Thanks!" I said. I decided, seeing as we were on date number 4 since the baby was born, that I'd take my chances. After watching a great movie, we went straight home to relieve the poor girl who sat with little E for a two and a half hour fuss session. the popcorn question had to be answered, so I did a search and according to an article entitled Pop Secrets by Amy Wmmer Schwarb, here's the scoop:

Popcorn has more going for it than a reputation as the most fun grain in the maize family. While some U.S. crops—soybeans, field corn and tomatoes come to mind—have been genetically altered with DNA from other living organisms, popcorn remains pure, its parentage selectively bred using techniques as old as Charles Darwin. The many improvements it has enjoyed over the decades are the result of good old-fashioned farming know-how—and lots of trial and error. Yet within the industry, breeders know there may come a day—five years from now? 10? 20?—when keeping up with the field production of genetically modified crops could challenge them to reconsider. Though the crop has ancient roots, the quest to breed a better popcorn is largely a 20th century phenomenon—one that might eventually be plagued by this even more modern question. No popcorn currently on the market is genetically modified (known in the breeding world as GMO), but Ken Ziegler, who retired last year as the popcorn-breeding agronomist at Iowa State University, says a nod of consumer acceptance could shift the future. “The big companies, for sure, have GMOs on their shelf, ready to go,” Ziegler says. “They have to, to be competitive.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lilyana Isabella 9 days new!

Yeah. I'm still here. I'm almost becoming a Prine, having not written in my blog for so long, but I can fit one more thing into my lunch break.

The most important announcement you all know by now.
On Sunday, September 23rd, 2007, the world was blessed by the entry of one Lilyana Isabella Poupoure Drummey among our personage. She is one of those babies who's eyes are already open, who gets the swing of things from the start, and who has made two of my favorite people parents. A huge congrats to mama Delilah and dada Jonathan. I look forward to meeting her in person.

Okay, now onto eating lunch and going for a walk with 24 minutes and counting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lightning triathletic Garden Jazz

There's thunder and lighting outside, so hopefully I can compose and complete before the power goes out.

The Triathletes!
Sunday at 7am, I cycled on down to Cabrillo boulevard to catch the second half of the sprint triathalon for two reasons: Roy Hunter and Danny Briere. A third reason occured to me as I cycled along the empty streets of Santa Barbara and onto the bike path to witness the glorious hues of a Santa Barbara Sunday. The Arlington West volunteers were setting up the white crosses that represent the fallen American soldiers of the Iraq War. There was beauty within this sadness as well. Soon, I could not cycle on the bike path because it was filled with numbered men and women, huffing their way to the finish line. I steered my bike to the worn strip of yellow grass where those with an affinity for non paved surfaces walk between the palm trees. From there, I saw the man, Roy Hunter, jogging on the path in a meditative state.

I broke his reveree by calling out "whoo hoo Roy! Go Hunter!" I beat him on my bike to the finish line (he was headed out, not in) and there I also saw Danny Briere cross the finish line and after catching his breath, was embraced by his family. I gave both athletes a bouquet from my garden. I couldn't picture either of these men accepting flowers, so instead, I made two bouquets of chard from the garden. Roy got my humor. Danny was gracious, as you are with street people ranting to themselves as they look at you sideways. But isn't fresh chard what every man wants?

Jazz Greats
Monday night, we dropped baby E off with friends and headed to the Lobero to see the great Dave Brubeck quartet. Dave Brubeck made me laugh, cry and gaze on with wonder. Approaching his mid 80s, Brubeck is witty, his fingers still dance, and he knows how to work an audience. His sax player was so incredible that I actually took my sax to work today to play on my lunch break. We had the honor of going back stage where I met both of these inspirational men. Dave Brubeck is a walking aura of light and happiness. what an evening!

The Garden
Please see the picture posted!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Slow Food Revolution, Mystery Creatures and Food Sheds

On Thursday, I made it down to the public library to watch a film about the Slow Food Revolution. It sounds funny, but this revolution is one revolution in which I want to partake. The movement originated in Italy, after McD's started the process of opening a franchise in the historic Spanish Steps district in rome.

I have a very fond memory of the Spanish Steps. In 1998, I spent three weeks in Italy, and on my last night there, I perused the Spanish Steps area, looking in beautiful boutiques, surrounded by well dressed ladies and gentlemen. I wore a fashionably (at the time) short skirt and a pretty summer blouse. I was slightly tan from three weeks of July sun, and I had a sense of cultural understanding, in the 'just an inkling' of the tip of the iceberg sort of way of the beautiful Italian culture. An impeccably dressed older gentleman approached me. He had shopping bags in his arms baring names of stores I hadn't dared to enter due to the "you'll never make enough money in your life to purchase even one of our shoes" ambiance. He stopped me and asked me in Italian for directions. I smiled for just a heartbeat, aware of the bittersweet of life. This exquisite gentlemen had mistaken me, an American on her first trip abroad, for an Italian. I knew that once I opened my lips, it would be all over. And, as I stumbled in Italian to say I do not speak Italian, the gentle smile fluctuated on his face for just a moment as he excused himself and went on his way. I think this last passage could serve Wikipedia as an example of "I digress."

But anyway, I bet he too, would not want a McDonald's in the treasured Spanish Steps area. So these Italians decided that if there was a fast food philosophy, then there should be a slow food philosophy to counteract it. What started out as a joke has turned into an international movement! I recommend the Slow Food Revolution film for inspiration. It shows the spirit of integrity, international community and an appreciation of the good things in life, like food, Itallian men who can turn the most simple topics into an analogy of lovemaking, and time to dilly dally, digress and be.

After the movie, representatives from the four groups who sponsored the film got up and spoke. One was from the Food Shed, a program that encourages neighborhoods to get together and share the fruits and vegetables of their labors with one another in a simple trade system.

I attended a food shed earlier today and dropped off chard, mint and basil from my garden. In return, I met a kind, earth minded group of individuals who spoke of Permaculture, communal living in Isla Vista, conditions that pear trees need to grow, etc. My triple green contribution was exchanged for an orange, a grapefruit, three pears, and two heirloom tomatoes. Queen Whackamole showed up on her electric bike and I was the happy recipient of two home baked loaves of bread, made by the Queen in her solar oven. I'd say that was enough to make my day adventurous and prosperous!

And what does all this have to do with a mystery creature? As my family dined outside at dusk, a hummingbird on qualudes hovered into the garden to visit the tomato plants. Yet it moved more slowly than any hummingbird I've seen, but still had the ability to hover in place. Then, it moved about in a drug induced bat like pattern. It looked furry, black and white, had a beak like a hummingbird and had beady, glowing eyes. We'd ruled out bat and hummingbird. We watched in utter fascination, wondering if a Malaysian insect had made its way to Southern California in a petroleum gobbling fruit shipment.

After dinner was eaten joyfully beneath an almost full moon, the baby put to bed and the husband off to his computer, I went online to see what I could find. And, it appears, we have seen a Hummingbird Moth!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Apartment with a Garden & How do beets grow?

I've dabbled in herb boxes outside of my window, but interest in and space for a garden have never coincided until now. Our west side apartment has a backyard that consists of a concrete slab, a view of the neighbors moss covered trailor over a dilapidated metal fence, a hearty lemon tree out the kitchen window and an L of hard earth covered in weeds and yellow grass. There's not much we can do about the view, but since we moved in this past April, we've converted the L shaped patch of dirt from ghetto yard into an experimental garden.

It took months, because as we've learned, any well intended extracurricular activities take a few extra months when you have a baby. After spending about 30 minutes with a book from the library on Organic Gardening, and about the same amount of time perusing online gardening sites, conferring with the neighbors about their not so civil wars with the gophers in the hood, we decided to dig a hole the size of a shallow swimming pool in which to lay wire mesh, aka chicken wire, to protect the precious starter plants (too late in the season for seeds) we'd purchased at Terra Sol nursery in Goleta. The pool garden project took a month in and of itself. Lots of measuring, several trips to the Home Improvement Center, and lots of digging. Beneath that patch of dry we discovered Native American fossils. Just kidding! We did come across some bolts, pieces of broken pots (the kind you get in the nursery, not see in the museum) and a few bones (as in the kind you throw to your dog). But the most common thing in the dirt was an abundance of happy earth worms! Our ambitions were no so far afield as I'd thought!

Next, artist and ecovillage minded friend and art teacher Bill came over and helped me re-fill the swimming pool hole with the mound of dirt that had made a small mountain in our backyard. The sky was turning orange by the time we started measuring spaces for the rows and taking the 2-4 inch plants from their little containers and planting them at distances that seemed appropriate in neat little rows. We ordered a pizza as we finished up and ate beneath the stars, tired and covered in dirt as we looked out at the perfect garden.

Here are some things I've learned.

One. Read more before you plant.

Two. Pumpkin plants should have gone on the far side of the garden next to the patch of undeveloped yard (the rest of the L), as their vines have spread the entire length of my 17x10 foot garden, shading the strawberries, pushing their way through the tomato plants, burying the tomatillo and artichoke beneath their broad leaves.

Three. Water the garden in the morning. Watering at night, although it may let the water settle in, can lead to mildew on the leaves--I've had to cut back half of the pumpkin and zucchini leaves due to mold.

Four. I have no idea how beets are supposed to grow! I hear the lovely red and green leaves on top are edible, but I had NO IDEA that the beets rest above ground. In fact, did I plant them correctly? Are these beets supposed to be roots beneath the soil? I don't know!

Five. I believe the planting rules (e.g. months to start, etc) have a bit more flexibility in Southern California than say, Appalachia.

Six. Mint is a veritable water hog and the rabbit of herbs! It has taken OVER the half barrel where I planted several other herbs, now completley hidden by the mint. Mojitos, anyone?

That's it! Pictures coming soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Noelle goes independent

On August 2nd, I wrote a little diddy about independence. Or, rather, I wrote a food article on Barcliff & Bair for the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the published story, go to

Thanks to George, who provided the opportunity to submit a piece, and to Shelley Shoemaker for agreeing to share her story. In other news, I learned an important lesson--email has serious limitations as a method of communicating sensitive information. Face to face communication is the way to go. I already knew this, but sometimes it takes a little 80s style head banging to let the lesson sink into every pore.

In other news, Jonathan & Delilah have a due date of September 12th, and BOY (or Girl?) is that just around the corner! So, be expecting cute baby pics of someone besides baby Ezra to be appearing on this blog.

On September 6th, Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House" will be speaking at the Marjorie Luke Theatre in Santa Barbara at 7pm. Cohort Michelle says she's an excellent speaker, and since I won't be able to attend the upcoming green conference in SF (, now's the time to see her in person, right here in our backyard.

Speaking of the backyard, the garden has a serious sun addiction, and we have a real live vegetables at our fingertips!

That's about it for this update.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Turning half

Tomorrow my little boy turns a half. We didn't celebrate when he turned a 1/4 or a 1/3, but HALF, now that's pretty significant! Today, I rode to the bus stop and stopped right in front of the stop, right in front of the bus. The driver didn't honk, but I got a serious lecture of how I almost died when I stepped on board. Needless to say, I feel a bit shaken up. It could happen just like that. Something stupid. You're excited. You see the bus at the signal. You pass it and zoom to your stop and splat, your life ends and those that care about you, well, their lives change.

So, I'm glad to be alive to celebrate Ezra's half birthday! Thank God!

In other news, I was interviewed by the Department of Defense today on behalf of a friend. They don't do interviews over the phone, it must be in person. Good thing this particular friend has stellar credentials and has been a terrific friend who is easy to boast about.

Wishing everyone health, solid reviews and love.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've been Memed

First and foremost, I'd like to shout out a "Happy Birthday" to the Cattie Meister. I hope she is having a wonderful time in Norwegia.

Okay. Now down to business. I've been Memed. I don't know eight bloggers, so I guess I just have to at least start this and then delve into the blogosphere to see who might play.

Here's the "rules" (like the pirate code, they're more like guidelines):

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Here is my 11 minute list (I know because I'm cooking pasta at the same time, and when the bell goes off, that's it!)

1. I played the door mouse in a PCPA production of Alice in Wonderland when I was 4, going on 5 years old.

2. I like to kick pigeons (in theory. I've never gotten close enough. Those winged rats are adept at avoiding a shoe tip.)

3. I eat almond butter almost every day on La Brea whole wheat.

4. I worked for a weekly newspaper in Moscow, Idaho for 4 months. My most exciting story was about high school teen pregnancy rates, and it caused quite a stir in this Christian potato farmer town.

5. I had a four year musical scholarship to the University of Hawaii, which unfortunately required playing in a PEP band for the UH Basketball team.

6. I hiked to half dome with my family when I was 3 years old.

7. I tapped John Travolta on the shoulder in Solvang in front of the Solvang Pharmacy when I was twelve years old.

8. I was baptized twice while still in my mother's womb. (She helped with a church school).

That's all folks! Beware bloggers, I'm going to find you and MEME you, whoever YOU may be!

Monday, June 25, 2007

My Santa Barbabyan

So a friend who is a second generation astrologist told us that King Ezra will be good with funds. In fact, he's off to an early entrepreneurial start and wants me to sell baby onesies. Of course, I will have to see what the rest of the world (or, at least Santa Barbara) thinks of his design. See Ezra modeling on this blog! Not bad for a 5 month old, eh?

Other babies are, by now, rolling over, enjoying tummy time, breaking teeth and doing a whole host of other things. Ezra just seems to want to play, chill and make cooing and car sounds. The competitive, irrational part of me is getting drawn into the comparison game. Why isn't my little man rolling over yet? But all the books say babies do things when they want to, not when mom and dad, or other books want them to. Ezra's smile and active reaching hands are another buddha baby reminder that all things happen when they are meant to happen.

On his first Summer Solstice Parade, Ezra did manage to stay happy the entire day. Mom even got away to the beer garden. How's that for a five month benchmark? I know I'll get grief for that last sentence!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Developed Nation Guilt

How do you stay positive and upbeat in life AND stay informed about world events? It seems the two are contradictory, yet I know plenty of well-informed, happy people. I imagine that each one of you has a personal philosophy that keeps the news just out of reach of your soul, and that you protect your soul with a special potion of kindness, that radiates out to protect you, sort of like anti-oxidents fighting off free radicals. Speaking in nutritional terms, if we all had a diet of daily news alone, we would be withering in darkness and shame.

My baby teaches me daily about the importance of being in the moment and appreciating all you have. Even when he's upset, it is an honor to hold him and cherish him. I am in this beautiful bubble of love, and I feel the community I live in is an extension of that bubble, somehow protected from the atrocities I read about in the paper. Yes, bad things have happened to me, to my friends, to my family, in my community. We will never be free of sadness and heartbreak, but most everyone I know is in the privileged top 20% of the world population, where food, shelter and a source of income have never been in question.

Perhaps this ramble is about developed nation guilt. Is there such a thing? You know you have it all, and yet you want more, and you feel guilty, because you know how extremely lucky you are already? Yet, compared to those around you, you are considered lower middle class on an economic scale, so you strive for greater things. If this is a disease, I have it.

So, what is the cure? Perhaps living your life to the fullest and accomplishing as much as you can, because you have the privileged position to do so. And giving back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Brother Ventures Out into the world

This is not about an Orwellian world. Rather, about my real flesh and blood big brother. A renewed interest in God led him on a 6 day trip into the rural depths of Haiti where he volunteered at an orphanage with a group of fellow parishioners. This past weekend, I visited him with my cousin in law and we ended up his captive audience for a slide show with over 300 pictures. Images of major urban decay, and the decay of the flesh from aggressive parasites on many beautiful Haitian children and adults they treated flashed up on the screen, along with pictures of children wishing to be adopted. Supposedly, you can adopt these children for $5000 each. You can also pay for one year of education for one child, which includes a hot meal every day for $100 a year. Talk about a different economy.

It wasn't all despair. My brother asked the orphans to dance for the camera. At first reluctant, they moved shyly, slowly. Then, after seeing the instant playback, they morphed into happy children with broad smiles all wiggling and waving. He also taught them how to make a silly batmanesque mask over their eyes using their hands. Directors and orphans alike all posed with this mask, as if it was a local custom.

I asked him if the experience changed him. He didn't really have an answer. He knew the work was hopeless in a way. All those infected with worms would most likely just get reinfected. The poverty is rampant, as is the prevalence of AIDS. Yet, he fell in love with the people, who he described as beautiful and innocent. If they live with hope, then anyone can drum up a dose of hope in their lives.

Way to go big brother.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Vicarious Happiness

Today, I pulled some siteplans off the web for inspiration and sat down with my colored pencils and started to sketch out my ideal community. It included lots of green and blue not so much tan, peach and gray. In other words, lots of open space and water features and not so many buildings and paved surfaces. There was a garden large enough to feed 35 people--my maximum human count for an eco community where you know everyone, rather than just nod at them from a distance--a safe level of intimacy without overcrowding. My design has a common house, a large vegetable garden, citrus orchards, two herb gardens, a water tower, small barn with chicken coop and a bee keeping area. There are enough buildings to house 12 families, from 2 to 4 people each (roughly 35 people). Half of these homes are over store fronts, so that the community has an external revenue source and central access to basic sundries. I imagine pods of such communities connected together, each specializing in production of one or two items that neighboring communities would like to purchase or trade. "How many acres?" you might ask. "What is the average square feet of the homes?" I have no idea. I'm not a landplanner. In fact, I don't even have the landscape in which to lay my plans. But like the Beatles "I've got a driver, and that's a start", its in my imagination, and in my coloring book, and that's worth something.

Speaking of worth something and ideal community, two dear friends just purchased a home in Maine. One sibling and his partner will live upstairs and the couple with their baby will live downstairs--a tiny community of sorts. Both couples are so loving and great, that I am overjoyed for them! The two story home the size of a medium mansion in Santa Barbara is a mere $199,000 in Maine. Why am I still here? Oh yeah. The beach, the people, the ecological mindedness of so many residents. I digress. It feels so good to be happy for my friends! I can't say that I always revel in my friend's accomplishments. I'd like to claim to be so selfless, but its not always the case. I wonder what makes it easy to appreciate some people's successes and not others? It must be the dynamic of each relationship. Here's to experiencing happiness in everyone else's accomplishments.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Elizabeth Kolbert & my Friends

I arrived at the lecture excited to hear an author speak about a book that I had actually read in time. The book in question, Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert, was not a light work of fiction, but a thoroughly researched presentation of studies across the planet stongly indicating human caused climate change--a grave topic. Yet as I located my seat saving poet friend in her bright neon cycling jacket, a little wave of excitement went through me like what you experience when meeting up with friends for a party, or a much anticipated film. Big Bill was there, Dan the Man, the great Earl of SB, I'm not one to George and many others. It was down right festive--especially because this cross section of friends all have concerns about global warming and do things like ride their bikes, buy bio diesel vehicles, grow vegetable gardens, host parties and write letters to congress.

By the end of the evening, the small group of 800 attendees probably felt little party in the atmosphere. When asked what we should do to stop global warming, Kolbert indicated it may already be too late, but to really address the issue, we could start by not just reducing our use of automobiles, but by ceasing driving altogether! Plus, we'd need to cut our energy consumption by 80 percent. She admittedly left this opinion out of the book, as she knew the alarmist sound of such statements would ensure sluggish sales. So basically, we're all scorpions on the back of that frog crossing the river--we want to change, but its just not in our nature to let go of our energy consumption patterns--and like that scorpion who stings the frog, leading to its own death, we too are on that path.

Boy I hope the next lecturer at UCSB has some fresh, optimistic ideas!

But of course, I actually am one to believe there is always hope. How else could I have had a child in this day and age?


Favorite Quote of The

My favorite quote this particular time period between blog entries is from George:

". . . Classy Fred Blassie, who seems to have been the Dick Cheney of wrestling--he even was rumored to have filed his incisors down to points (in Cheney's case, that makes it easier to eat puppies)."

No I already knew I didn't like Dick Cheney, but now that I've learned that he is also a puppy eater, my disdain has deepened!

I hope to have favorite quotes on a weekly basis, but of course, that would mean I have to actually make an entry every week, and perhaps even more often than that, so my blog isn't just about other's thoughts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A week without the Internet

Moving to a new place can present its challenges, but technology dependency has raised the bar in challenge impact. For instance, our new home is located next to a large hill, and although this hill is beautifully covered in untamed vegetation that is relaxing to gaze upon from our back yard, we have terrible cell phone reception! So, since we're of the ilk that abandoned the land line in favor of having low doses of RF* beamed at our heads on a daily basis, I now miss most of my phone calls. In addition, we took our time transferring our cable internet connection from old abode to new--thus another level of technological isolation! How am I to know what my friends are doing, blogging, thinking, reading? I can't call, I can't e, I've lost any intuitive abilities, such as those ascribed to the aboriginals in Mutant Message (of course this happened long before cell phones and internet), and to top it all off, the LA times didn't get my change of address notification because I forgot and I couldn't get online, and . . .

It was really terrible. I had to read books, play with by baby more, unpack my boxes uninterrupted by my life as I know it, and life as it is filtered to me through media. Hmmm . . . perhaps I enjoyed this low tech experience.

*RF, Radio Frequency. Exposure limits are set by the FCC for cell phones, using a measurement called a Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR, which measure sthe rate of absoprtion of RF energy by the human body expressed in units of watts per kilogram. The safety limit for a human is 1.6 watts per kilogram. I wonder how many kilograms my baby weighs and what is his SAR of RF. Perhaps its a good thing our new home has poor reception.

Signing Off.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

12 year old inspiration

Being in the 30 something stage of life with just an infant to my name, I don't have many opportunities to interact with junior highers. Tuesday evening we invited the next door neighbors over for dinner, consisting of a 40 something mom and a 12 year old daughter. We talked about dance trophies, Universal Studios, babies, seeing as we have one, food, school, swimming, spring break and movies. The evening was going along as predicted until the 12 year old (who I'll just call Danielle for the sake of not having to write the 12 year old another hundred times) said she liked writing and public speaking, and wanted to do a report on something important. In the back of my mind, my "important" topics starting lining up and waving their arms--global warming, pulling out of Iraq, reintroducing morality into our culture. I bit my tongue to see what was important to a 12 year old.

"You're really into the environment," her mom said. It was like a dream come true! Danielle's face lit up and she said, "Yes! That would be perfect. I'm really into global warming. We're melting all the ice caps and destroying our planet. Its not a choice. We have to change." Okay, those aren't her exact words, but that sums up her opinion.

I jumped into action. I grabbed "Field Notes froma Catastrophe; Man, Nature and Climate Change" by Elizabeth Kolbert.
"This book is all about global warming, and its explained in a way that really makes sense. You could totally use this for a report and its available at the library."
"Cool!" She said.
"It's a Santa Barbara reads selection, and the author will be speaking at UCSB at Campbell Hall on April 19th. Its a free lecture."
"Awesome!" She said. Danielle is a pretty girl, dance muscles emerging beneath baby fat. A perfect smile, bright blue eyes, blonde hair and a constellation of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her enthusiasm about any topic is catching. The date rang a bell for her.
"I think I have a dance competition that day.What time does it start?"
"I believe it starts at 8pm." I said.
"I could probably do that."
That's something I'd forgotten about being 12--a schedule that makes most CEOs appear as indigent bums in their comparative lack of activity.

Before the neighbors left, I'd written down a book title, loaned them a DVD of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and introduced them to the book "World Changing; a User's Guide for the 21st Century."
I wonder if it was too much when I put a flyer on their door the next day, like a Dominoes pizza ad, about the environmental talks scheduled in April in honor of Earth Day. They did say hello enthusiastically the next time I saw them, and I hoped that grin on her face was one of hope for the future, rather than a smile of sympathy for the 30 something over enthusiastic environmentalist--if I even deserve such a title.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fair Trade link update

My last link to the UK fair trade page didn't work--you know, the one I got from the Co-op America article. So I'm not sure if this is the same site, but sure sounds like it:

Friday, March 9, 2007

First US Fair Trade Town

For a pint, who can tell me the name of the first U.S. Fair Trade Town? Is it A) Deluth, Minnesota B) Media, Pennsylvania C) Ithica, New York or D) Bakersfield, California?

You guessed it, Bakersfield! Okay. Just kidding. According to Co-Op America's Fall 2006 newsletter (yes I'm just reading it now!), Media,Pennsylvania became the first "Fair Trade town" in the U.S. What does it take to become a fair trade town? Britain has a Fairtrade Foundation that sets the guidelines, which Media, PA modeled to declare such status;

Here's the basics:
Town/city council promises to serve Fair Trade products at meetings and functions
set mandates for a percentage of media retailers and institutions to sell and use FT products
Encourage support and media coverage of FT
Create a steering committee to keep it going on!

Europe is a ways ahead of us, but I bet we could catch up if we made it sexy to be a FT town. Can you imagine Fair Trade Hollywood? How about Fair Trade Flint, Michigan? For the full scoop on Britain's guidelines, check out

That's what guys night out does for a woman. At least in my town. At least on this night!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Prince of Wales

When I first read that the 21 year old son of the Prince of Wales will be serving in Iraq, I was impressed. Wow. That is a leveling of the class system, where all serve equally. Yet, we all know this is not quite true. He will be in a highly armored vehicle and deployed in less dangerous areas. I started this entry on February 22nd or so, and then my own little prince at home decided I had more important things to do.

But that's just it. Each human is a prince to someone, the center of a universe--a father, son, daughter, sister, brother. You get my drift. So how is a real, technically speaking, prince any more important? Why do we elevate their lives above our own? We don't really, but as a mass society we do. Perhaps we just don't have the capacity to value each human life lost and we need a personal story to relate to in order to feel a connection. Without that human interest vantage point, another death is just too hard to take in; there's no more room at the inn of compassion. Iraqi citizens and soldiers of the US led allied forces die about every day, and its only minorly newsworthy. Yet each one of those deaths is the death of a human being and its like we can't see it anymore.
I felt the same way when the US was attacked on 9/11. Why is that MORE newsworthy than say, a similar death toll in another country? Its as if we view others as lesser nationalities, their blood diluted, second class. But of course any time you're attacked, your family, your friends, your country, it becomes personal as someone has invaded your universe. But I couldn't help thinking way back then--of course this happened. We've been the bully in the international playground throwing sand in everyone's eyes for decades, using our might is right approach. Did we think the whole world passive?

Futue prince of Wales or Prince of Oak Park, both lives are equally valuable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

La Mesa de Trabajo

So here I am, at la mesa de trabajo, contemplating my sleeping wonder. He hears my thoughts. He raises a hand into the air, eyes closed, and holds it there, stretching the material of his little onesie, as if saying, "I am growing faster than you can blink, mom." Or, perhaps he is sending a message to the universe. Something grand. Something only babies are capable of doing. "We must speed up the intervention plan. They're destroying our planet future." Or perhaps, the thought is simply, "booby."

My days are filled with long stretches of looking into tiny blue eyes, wondering if they'll change color. When my man comes home, I am shocked at how huge his eyes are, and then I realize my comparison. I feel as if nothing gets accomplished and yet each day is a wonder. I idolize this small creatura who is turning into a baby.

Today I took a walk through my neighborhood. I passed a number of people. A man with swarthy, pocked skin and baggy clothes clinging to his plastic bag as if I might grab it from him. As he walked past, he retrieved a plastic tube of mustard from the bag, past anticipating his lunch in the park. Further ahead, three young latinas with the mark of Ash Wednesday across their foreheads walked toward me. They smiled at my stroller. I passed two other lone men who glanced through me like people in New York. They look into your eye, but only for a smooth moment that is just one click of a panoramic intake, no more, no less.

The king has cried. I must depart this ramble.

Friday, February 9, 2007


During this rare time of being home with a newborn, I find myself traveling more then ever before. A few days ago, I was back in Brugge, Belgium inside a medieval catholic church, lighting a prayer candle for Niki and Inge. I remember slipping the euro coin into the metal box to the side of burning candles, and taking the last spot. I thought of all those prayers winding their way through the dark vaulted church and onto heaven. I wonder if science will ever be able to measure our intentions and how long they take to travel to their destinations.

The other day as I took a sip of decaf green chai tea, I was suddenly walking along a snowy path with my man, deep in a valley beneath sheer the stone walls of Luxembourg. So long ago, yet there I was, my boots losing their traction on the ice, marvelling at the beauty of this ancient city.

I suppose you develop wanderlust at many different times in life, but it seems most poignant when you are truly unable to step aboard an airplane due to life's circumstances.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Monday, January 29, 2007

The third arm

I'm waiting to grow the third arm I was told about. No, I'm not volunteering for long range radar gun experiments
and I don't live next door to a nuclear facility. I'm talking about motherhood and how this third arm is supposed to develop so I don't have to type one handed, so I can have a two-handed grip on my garden burger, while that third arm, with a dexterious hand appendage can hold the baby. I guess the third arm is like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny--fantasy to temporarily help you through life transitions--I am a little relieved I must say. I was wondering where to buy three armed tops, and I was thinking sleeping might also have its challenges. . .

Monday, January 22, 2007

That tranistion you hear so much about

On January 12, 2007, Ezra Cole entered the world and changed at least two people's lives forever. With help, from capable doctors, an amazing maternity ward staff, and support and keen interest from friends and family, he has shifted into his second week of life quite nicely.

This experience has taught me many things, but from a larger point of view, I have a reinforced respect for one aspect of my culture --modern medicine, contemporary medical procedures and other professionals who made the birth possible in the first place (woulda most likely died in a third world country without cesarian capabilities). My agrarian visions of giving birth naturally in a self supporting eco village quickly disappeared when the doctors told me what could have happened if I gave birth naturally.

And on a much more basic level, I have discovered that yes, indeed, there is love at first sight. An amazing rush of love that consumes you (I know someone out there thinks its just hormones) and takes ahold of you in a way that I can only compare to passages of rapture I've come across in my days of the holy spirit consuming you and blinding you in an unimaginable love and humility. So love, in this maternal case, feels very spiritual.

I've got 10 minutes before the little man wants it. So signing off for now!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One more day til motherhood

As many of my friends and family know, tomorrow I am scheduled for a cesarian birth, and thus the official beginning of motherhood. I have many preconceived notions of motherhood, books I've read, relationships I've observed, my own experience with my mother, my husband's experiences with his mother. All of these ideas are free floating inside of my head, yet at the same time, there is an inner calm. It will come. I will become a mommy.

How recent is the phenomenon of choosing a date to become parents? As I recall from a recent article in the New Yorker on cesarian births, more and more women in developed nations are opting for cesarians, and more and more doctors are turning to cesarian births when natural pregnancy poses problems--such is our case. Doctors also push for a cesarian to avoid potential lawsuits, and knowing the litigious nature of American society, I don't blame them. Some of my European friends look upon me with pity, that I can not experience natural childbirth. I look upon the experience as a miracle. It is through this process that my life and the life of the baby will not be threatened. It is not fool safe. A million things could still go wrong, but statistically speaking, we are in good hands.

No one can tell us what it will be like, as one thing that is for sure--we are all individuals and will have our own experience as parents. I am looking forward to it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Introducing Aguayo Shed

Aguayo is the maiden name of my paternal grandmother Mercedes and her wild sister Ta, both born somewhere in Mexico on the legendary ranch of Uisamopa. Their father owned a silver mine. Their large family fled to Los Angeles during the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1916 when the ranch was taken over by the people. Despite a good 9 inch difference in our heights (me being the taller), and my pale, freckled skin, I related to these two little, fiercely strong women, and feel most connected with their heritage. Although they have both since left this earth, their presence in my formative years has helped shaped my ideology--including beliefs that developed in opposition to theirs. I thus take the name "Noelle Aguayo" as my blog persona.

Aguayo shed is viewed as a place for me to wood shed on my ideas and share them with friends and an unknown public. Here goes!