PARK(ing) Day

We're one week away from National PARK(ing) Day!
Fri Sept 19th, do this:
1. Pick out a nice metered parking spot and fill 'er up
2. Roll out some green... fabric, putting green, whatever you got
3. Set up a chair, a park bench, some croquet...
4. Park it for the day, an hour, however long you can have someone sit and enjoy the park!
5. Join the flickr group and post pics of your day at the park!


Hairy Lady's Fingers

Yum! So what we call okra, India calls lady's fingers. I kinda see it. But not so much. I can't remember if Indian okra is hairy, but ours is. Which doesn't really work with the lady finger thing. Forget the hair, just find some okra, it's in season!!
Anyway. I made some this weekend following a Keralan recipe, and they came out so delicious! I made them again tonight, with a little more speed and confidence. Next time, I won't even need to look at the recipe!

Straight from Nimmy Paul, with a few tweaks...
Plain yogurt
Green chili (jalapeno) chopped
Ginger chopped
Grated coconut (UNsweetened)
Coconut oil
Mustard seeds
Dry red chili
Curry leaves (I used basil, don't tell Nimmy!)

Saute okra in a little butter or oil (vegetable, safflower, etc...). When almost done, add 1/2 T ginger and 1 chopped chili, toss in a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, combine about 1 c of yogurt with about 1/4 c of coconut. When okra is softened to your liking, mix into the yogurt. Put the pan back on heat, add about 1 1/2 T of coconut oil, 1/2 t mustard seeds, 1/2 dry red chili (or 1 tsp), and curry leaves*. When spices start popping, mix into okra and yogurt. Stir gently and serve!

*Curry leaves are very different than what we know as curry, the yellowish mixed spice powder. Fresh green curry leaves add a wonderful subtle flavor which is released when they hit the oil. They can be hard to find outside of Indian neighborhoods, so I've substituted fresh basil leaves. Nimmy said not to try subbing anything, but I did. And I liked it. Use about 3 or 4 leaves, doesn't need to be strong.

A few other notes. Please be sure to get UNsweetened grated coconut. It's much easier than grating your own, but by all means, if you've got coconuts, give it a whirl. DO NOT get regular grated coconut that you'd put on an ice cream sundae. You will be oh so disappointed.
Also, coconut oil might not be in the regular grocery store. Should be at any asian or ethnic food store. The health food store near me has it. It's glorious, you'll want to use it for everything. Be very. very. careful. Or you'll turn into a coconut!
Finally, a little discovery... typically when I make okra, it's slimy. You know what I mean. Fresh or frozen, always comes out slimy. I found out that's because I steam it, even in just a little water, still slimy. Well when you just saute in a little oil or butter, NO slime! It takes much longer to soften, but it's worth it.

Adjust the recipe's yogurt and coconut based on how much okra you use. I used about 2 c chopped okra, and this is only about 2 servings for a main dish, 4-6 as a small side. But I like it, and so did everyone else that had it, we could have doubled the recipe, even as a side. Enjoy!


Real Food Please

Sorry if this isn't up your alley, but it's important to me, and I think to many of you. I think it's time to move beyond little lifestyle changes (which are also important), to speaking up in policy forums. Here is an opportunity. I'd love to see these comments jump in number to send a little message that we are noticing the poor governance of our food supply. Maybe this should be prefaced with: I do not trust the FDA, at all...

In response to spinach troubles, the FDA recently announced a rule allowing manufacturers to irradiate spinach and iceberg lettuce. You might like to know that other foods are already being processed with radiation, to kill off bacteria and extend shelf life, including meats and other fruits and vegetables. Irradiation is not acceptable processing under the USDA's 'organic' guidelines, only for non-organic foods. Here are some thoughts from Europe.

From Wikipedia, "food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. Further applications include sprout inhibition, delay of ripening, increase of juice yield, and improvement of re-hydration. Irradiation is a more general term of deliberate exposure of materials to radiation to achieve a technical goal. As such it is also used on non-food items, such as medical hardware, plastics, tubes for gas-pipelines, hoses for floor-heating, shrink-foils for food packaging, automobile parts, wires and cables (isolation), tires, and even gemstones."

But let's remember, we don't generally ingest these objects...

A food's make-up (fats, carbohydrates, etc...) determine what exactly changes in the food's content once irradiated. Spinach and lettuce are mostly water, so the result isn't totally damaging. But it's the basic idea that it is causing free radicals, bacterial mutations, and generally altering the DNA of your food. That just seems weird to me.

FDA is accepting comments and opposition until Sept 21st. Here is where you can comment. - http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064806d2f95
Make sure you include the docket # - FDA-1999-F-2405
Click on the Add Comments button, and go to town. You can submit as an Individual Consumer in the Submitter Category box. You can post as anonymous or with your name.
Here is some recommended text that I modified a bit from another commenter...


My already poor trust in the FDA is only being deteriorated. Just like my food's nutritional qualities.

Allowing irradiation of lettuce and spinach is an irrational response to a continuing problem of mass-farming and lax health regulation and inspection. The reason that we have seen an increase in the outbreak of salmonella and e. coli is that the farms, handling, and distribution centers are filthy. Irradiation is not the answer for food-borne illness. It is a overly simplistic bandage to offer a false level of confidence in the public sector. It is only serving the needs of the out-of-control food industry.

Irradiation is not a safe solution. Not only do we see vitamin loss and the loss of essential fatty acids in irradiated foods, there is a real possibility of promoting a mutation of the strains of e. coli and other food-borne microorganisms. Additionally, there are concerns over the formation of free radicals, which can set off chain reactions in the body destroying antioxidants, tearing
apart cell membranes, and making the body more susceptible to cancer, diabetes,
heart disease, liver damage, muscular breakdown etc.

I insist that the public not be misled and ill-informed. While simple labeling in the grocery may allow a consumer to make her own choice about the use of irrradiated food (which seems poorly enforced anyway), this does not prevent restaurants, school lunchrooms, hospitals, etc. from serving unknowing consumers foods that have been irradiated. Given the known and potential health concerns, this is hardly an acceptable solution.

Please take all comments into consideration, and understand that we ARE noticing the poor governance of our food supply.

Again, sorry if you don't care about this. But maybe forward it on to another friend that may.

Your public service announcement person on patrol ...


Knitting Comes to Jersey City

We're getting our very own knitting store and cafe! I was wondering when somebody was going to open up something like this.

The Stockinette
581 Jersey Ave @ 3rd St

They're in there working away stocking shelves, painting, decorating... due to open in September. VERY exciting news.


Is It Hot In Here?

So the firemen fabric from awhile back? It turned into an apron, only to be used for cooking the hottest of hot foods of course... It was a gift for Heidi's birthday. Here she is modeling it. In the subway. On a Saturday night. She wore it all night.

It's probably the most amusing thing I've ever made. Here's another close-up. Just because I can't get enough.

Listening to: Marvin Gaye - Take Me To the River



The best way I can describe India is... vibrant.
I went for the food and the culture, and returned in complete amazement of the depth of it all.
I've never experienced so much color, spice, friendliness, confusion, variations in lifestyle... and I saw only the tiniest sliver.

I went with a group set up through friends, 16 of us, to Kerala, the southwest coastal region of India. Kerala actually means "God's own country", and it's stunning. It's the spice center of the world, and I will argue that with anyone who dares. They grow a chunk of the world's peppercorn, cardamom, tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla... We went to markets, toured farms and plantations, and had cooking demonstrations at every stop, by chefs, mothers, fishermen, anyone who would cook with us.
I learned that curry is actually a leaf... tea is actually a tree - picked best during monsoon season... black, green, white, and red peppercorn is all from the same plant... indian okra isn't slimy like ours... and cardamom makes everything better...

Beyond Kerala's food, there is rich culture. Kerala is predominantly Christian, with Hindus and Muslims making up most of the balance, and some Buddhists and even Jews (~15 families in Kochin). The Christians eat all meat, even though cows are off-limits in the Hindu culture (Hindus believe that all 365,000 Hindu gods and goddesses live in the belly of the cow). The Catholic church is alive and well in Kerala. We visitied a Sunday morning service, all in Malayalam, but I still got a sense of extreme devotion. Ayurveda is rooted in Kerala as well, a homeopathic traditional medicine and lifestyle that uses massage, oils, teas and herbs. Many Keralites use it as their healthcare. And we used it frequently throughout the trip. Imagine wet fish on an oily countertop. That is ayurvedic massage.

The colors are the best part - the decor and aesthetics, the dress, even hair ribbons. This is a sari store, 4 floors of shelving with the most beautiful colors and fabrics. They take pride in their colors. A favorite thing to do in villages is photos. Everyone loves to have their photos taken, but you must show them on the screen. They love seeing their pictures, shaking hands, smiles go a long way in India...

We ate like royalty, and for many, it's actually how they eat daily. I didn't see any packaged anything; all meat, produce, spices and fruits are fresh and in bulk. They get their milk from cows, local spices and rice... It was delicious. Fresh curry leaves and coconut milk in almost every dish. Treats and dishes like oppams, chappatis, paisams, dosas, masalas...

There's so many wonderful things, I hate to even mention India's challenges, but unfortunately there are many. The cities, especially the big cities like Mumbai, are totally overwhelming with poverty, squalor, and filth. There are very poor water and waste management systems in India, and the city streets become dumps quickly. The roads are horrendous, and apparently the transportation authorities don't fix potholes unless they get a nice fee... The roads, dear god, the roads. If I never go back to India, it will be because of the roads. Buses, trucks, taxis, tuktuks, bicycles, pedestrians, and cows... all on the same road, some going the same direction, all going as fast as they can while avoiding potholes. Except the cows. They mosey right along, sometimes even obeying the stoplights better than the vehicles...

The saving grace to Mumbai was our visit with a couchsurfing friend and his family. Sachin invited me and Dad over to their apartment, where his mom cooked us the most amazing dinner. It was the most gracious thing I've ever seen someone do for strangers, and it set our trip off to the best start possible!

So many wonderful stories, much of it is portrayed in the pictures... enjoy! There are also videos of things like tuktuk rides, Independence Day Parades, rope spinning, etc... Photos and videos will be updated as more come in from other folks in the group.


Creating New Habits

Some quick updates here... I've been knitting and sewing a bit (more on that later), started the new job, bought a crockpot!, and sold. my. car. Well almost. 2001 VW Cabrio for sale! anybody?

I read a really interesting article today about habits. How are habits formed, and how can we create new ones that we actually want?

Researchers "have found what they call three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs."

And then it even says... "Continuously stretching ourselves will even help us lose weight, according to one study. Researchers who asked folks to do something different every day — listen to a new radio station, for instance — found that they lost and kept off weight."

That sounds promising.

So as I sit here and bite my nails, wondering when I'll get to the gym again, I'm thinking about what habits I want. They say to not even try reversing habits, but creating parallel ones. And I like the whole stretch idea. I have this idea that mornings could be way more productive. I could actually walk my dog instead of just taking her to the tree in front. I could make coffee and sit and drink it instead of pouring it into a travel mug that I forget and leave on the counter anyway. I could (gasp!) actually sit and meditate for 10 minutes to start my day. Doesn't that sound wonderful?? So I think I'll start by getting up 10 minutes earlier. It's certainly not the whole 45mins or an hour that I'd like, but it's a stretch.

What habits would you want, and how do you think you can stretch your current comfort zone to get them?


Library of Congress Photos

Discovered through DollyMix (via Court!) - The Library of Congress created a Flickr account to post their 3000+ photos. Many of them are fascinating, especially the ones of women working during the wars. I especially love this one, makes me proud to be a technical lady myself. And CHECK OUT those yellow overalls!

Some of the photos seem posed for sure, but what woman wouldn't want to pose for her shot to go down in history? I certainly would, especially to show off the wide leg of my coveralls perfectly anyway...

Listening to: Pandora


Sound the Alarms

I imagine most people would do the same thing I did yesterday if they saw this fabric in the store.
1) Laugh
2) Look around and see if anyone sees you picking up the bolt of fabric
3) Think what you could make of it (this is a great question - it doesn't appear to appropriate for something for a boy, but it's almost like boys fabric... I'm at a loss what the creators of this were intending...)
4) Laugh again
5) Take it to the counter to be cut and wait for the woman to laugh too
6) When she doesn't laugh, come up with some lame story about a project for your little cousin who loves firetrucks (Hummer firetrucks??)
7) Laugh your way out of the store (and every time it catches your eye on the way home)

I can't tell you what I'm using it for yet, but it's perfect. I can't think of any real uses for it. Every project I can think of is complete mockery.

Lucy likes it anyway.

Listening to: Zero 7 - In Time


Interfaith Questions

To honor Martin Luther King Jr Day this year, I participated in an Interfaith Celebration that took me to a mosque and a synagogue (and an Episcopal Church had I stayed for the whole tour). Part of my 2008 creation is to visit services or organizations of many various faiths and divisions of those faiths, and this fit perfectly. I've really wanted to visit a mosque and attend a regular service (are they called services? I don't even know), in order to expand my awareness and minimize ignorance as much as possible. Which was the theme of Sunday's events.

While I've been to many Christian and Jewish services and events, Islamic faith-in-practice is pretty fuzzy to me. What are their regular services like? Traditions? Daily practice? Thoughts on prayer, afterlife, food? I jumped at this opportunity to even be inside a mosque. It was a big beautiful simple room. Empty. We took our shoes off and put them in cubbies. I put a scarf over my hair, not knowing if it was required or not. It seemed that other women did too, but was my scarf too pretty, did it defeat the purpose and draw attention anyway? They asked us to sit on the floor or bring a chair over. I sat in a chair. Is that considered disrespectful or wimpy? A man sang a song he wrote for the occasion, is it appropriate to clap? I desperately want to understand these things.

The short service was very nice. An imam recited/chanted two verses from the Koran in Arabic and then translated into English. They were messages about tolerance and acceptance, and his chanting in this big open room was mysterious and beautiful. He then spoke about righteousness from the Muslim perspective and how we need to continue working to realize King's vision, and this can only be done by minimizing ignorance and intolerance. It was very touching and lovely. But I still wonder, "Is this the kind of message that they preach every week? Is this just because we're in New York City?". Which feels kind of horrible to me. Why should I question their tolerant and progressive event?

I would love to attend again sometime with a host, someone who can explain things as we go along, answer my scarf questions, so I can better understand this religion and culture. I want to do this in every religious tradition, but how do you begin? How do you pick such hosts? How long will it take for a Methodist-raised, Quaker and Catholic school-educated Buddhist meditator with a Jewish boyfriend to fully understand and appreciate all the faith cultures out there? Why do I even care so much?


Body Image

As we're now 2 weeks into the new year, seeing diet ads everywhere, body image has been on my mind.

Via Feministe: this toddler size "Hooters girl (in training)" tee...

Not that it's not always in your face, but really... is anyone else disturbed on almost a daily basis over things like this?

Fortunately, there have been a few things catching my eye that are out to battle the plastic surgery/perfect celebrity/fake body fake personality THING going on here.

One. How to Look Good Naked with Carson Kressley. You know, the AWESOME guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? I watched two episodes this weekend, and I. Love. It. He basically takes a woman with a non-Cosmo-cover body, and shows her in various ways that what she's got goin' on is beautiful and worthy of loving and flaunting. I totally support the idea that you've got to love and appreciate what you've got in order to inspire you to change it, if you want to. It has nothing to do with getting them to diet or exercise (though I do think it's always good to encourage healthy exercise like some simple walking and weights). He gets them to find proper fitting and beautiful undergarments, which most women don't have. One woman was wearing a 38C, and she's actually a 36E! No wonder she's uncomfortable and can't find clothes that fit her well. And he's brilliant with the women. But a big ole boooooo for Lifetime for allowing a Botox ad to play during the commercial break. Come ON Lifetime. Get your priorities straight. Less Botox, More Carson.

Two. The book Self-image and the teenage girl: a review of Body Drama by Nancy Redd. I actually read about it on the One City blog from the Interdependence Project (my weekly meditation group), so I can't say much about it from a personal perspective, but it looks really great. It talks about smelly feet! Girls need to know that smelly feet are ok! And that even prissy blonde celebrities have smelly feet! And it shows girls' bodies the way they are, in all their beautiful sizes, shapes, and colors. I think we need a little more of this. I think Dove has been doing some ads around this idea as well, go Dove!

Listening to: Aretha Franklin - Never Loved a Man


Back in business...

Whew! So I finally got to sit down tonight to work on some tiny projects that have been on the list. First up, the "Artsy Clutch" from Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing. It's on the cover, and I think it was enough to catch my eye and make me buy the book. The clutch is really just a simple rectangular lined bag with an extra layer of inner fabric for more support, and a button/loop closure. Simple, cute, and very use-able. Good way to use up scraps that (may or may not) match!

Next up, I've been staring at this on my desk for too long:

It's a hideous plastic sewing machine cover. It was $1 I think. I've been wanting to get something a little prettier. It has only 2 pieces, a 15"x6.5" rectangle for the top, and then a 45"x10" rectangle that wraps around the top rectangle and is then stitched down the side. I picked a fabric, cut it out, and had it together in maybe 15 minutes.

If I do another, I'd line it with a nice contrasting fabric for some sturdier support, but this will definitely do the job, and it looks MUCH nicer on my desk.

There's still some green fine-wale corduroy to become a skirt, an apron for a friend's belated birthday present, and a new carry-all bag on the list. I also want to take the time to make a taped dress form of myself. I really think it'll be worth the hour or so it takes to make, and it'll allow me to try so many more dresses and tops on my own form. And since it'll be hanging in my room somewhere, I'll look for some duct tape in nicer colors than industrial silver...

Last up, some favorite pics from Colorado:

Listening to: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No2