Friday, October 30, 2009

Coffee Labels

A little bit ago, I posted a little note about coffee labels and how overwhelming they all can be.  After some research and soul-searching (seriously) I've decided to only drink Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown coffee.  These three labels will ensure a good life for the coffee farmer and their community, that I am drinking coffee and not pesticides, and that my morning joe is not killing the rain forest.

We started with the can on the left (just finished it) and tomorrow I will open the can on the right.  Once that can is gone, we will go local as well.  I've heard rumors of a local coffee grinding place so I want to look into that.  Then we can help support the small local guy and bring in our own reusable container.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top 100 books?

So I found this book list the other morning and I thought I'd pass it on to you all.  I found it here and he found it here.  This list was generated by merging 10 different ‘top 100′ lists from the UK, US, Australia and Canada:

Read/Want to Read/Don’t Care to Read/Never Heard of It


1. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
2. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Grapes Of Wrath John Steinbeck
4. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
5. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
6. One Hundred Years Of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
7. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
8. Ulysses James Joyce*
9. On The Road Jack Kerouac
10. The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
11. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
12. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
13. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
14. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis
15. Great Expectations Charles Dickens
16. War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
17. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
18. Animal Farm George Orwell
19. Crime And Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky
20. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
21. Lord Of The Flies William Golding
22. Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh*
23. Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie
24. Love In The Time Of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
26. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
27. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
28. To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
29. Middlemarch George Eliot
30. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
31. Dune Frank Herbert
32. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
33. A Prayer For Owen Meany John Irving
34. Watership Down Richard Adams
35. The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
36. Little Women Louisa May Alcott
37. Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
38. Anne Of Green Gables LM Montgomery
39. Emma Jane Austen
40. Memoirs Of A Geisha Arthur Golden
41. Beloved Toni Morrison
42. Of Mice And Men John Steinbeck
43. The Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
44. Les Miserables Victor Hugo
45. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
46. The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
47. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy
48. Winnie the Pooh A.A. Milne
49. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks
50. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres
51. Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
52. Life of Pi Yann Martel
53. A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
54. The Count Of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
55. A Passage to India E.M. Forster
56. Moby Dick Herman Melville
57. A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth
58. The Stand Stephen King
59. Possession A.S. Byatt
60. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
61. A Tale Of Two Cities Charles Dickens *Started this but never finished*
62. The Trial Franz Kafka
63. I, Claudius Robert Graves
64. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
65. The Secret History Donna Tartt
66. His Dark Materials Philip Pullman
67. The Harry Potter Series J.K. Rowling
68. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
69. Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
70. Sons and Lovers D.H. Lawrence
71. The Pillars Of The Earth Ken Follett
72. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce
73. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
74. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
75. An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
76. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
77. Bleak House Charles Dickens
78. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger
79. A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry
80. The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemmingway
81. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
82. Under the Volcano Malcolm Lowry
83. The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing
84. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
85. The Stranger Albert Camus
86. Native Son Richard Wright
87. Gravity’s Rainbow Thomas Pynchon
88. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
89. Perfume Patrick Süskind
90. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
91. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
92. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
93. Pale Fire Vladimir Nabokov
94. Persuasion Jane Austen
95. Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand
96. The Tin Drum Gunter Grass
97. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
98. Atonement Ian McEwan
99. Light in August William Faulkner
100. The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett

Reusable Lunch Baggies

Thanks to Ideal Bite, I got this cool little email this morning about reusable lunch baggies.  I take two plastic sandwich baggies with me every day to work. I have one for my sandwich and one for my baggle.  Now before you get mad at me for going through ten bags a week, know that I don't use that many.  I reuse the bags until I lose them...this for me is about a month or so.  Firefly even brings home her bags now.  I think at first it was to humor me but now I think she does it for herself.

Still, even using these small amounts of bags bothers me.  What can we do? And what will we do when we have kiddos? Check out these two websites for the answer:
  1. Plumb Creek Mercantile 
  2. 3 Green Moms 
I am also thinking that someone handier then me on a sewing machine might just be able to bust a few of these out in an evening curled up by the fire. (hint, hint)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Contest

One of the things I enjoy about fall is carving pumpkins with friends every year.  Firefly gets WAY more into it then I do and as a result, each year she turns her pumpkin into something artsy-fartsy.  This year, with the help of her new drill, Firefly made a porcupine!  She was also going to turn two pumpkins into one scene of a bird sitting in a tree but as it turned out, the other two pumpkins were solid steel...steel that someone tricksy person painted orange and passed off as pumpkins!

Here is your chance to win some Apple Butter!  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a link to your carved pumpkin.  You'll also want to make sure to leave your email or a link to your blog/contact information.  This Friday I'll post a poll and let people vote.

Friday is also our Godson's first birthday party!  Anyone have any good gift ideas for Mom and Dad...we've spoiled our Godson all year long!

Monday, October 26, 2009

HOA vs. Clotheslines

Here is another reason I love living in an old house.  Old house tend to be found in old neighborhoods and old neighborhoods don't tend to have HOAs!  If you however are not so lucky and are subject to the rules of your HOA, good news might be coming your way. 

It seems that some communities have been able to get laws passed in their state to force HOAs to allow the use of clotheslines.

Check out the story from the Reno News and Review by clicking here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Therapy 101: Part Two

There were about seven or eight of us in the bunker I was in and not one of us really knew what was going on.  We could hear gun fire and see the tracer rounds along the perimeter of the base be we had very little real information.  We knew missiles had been fired at us and that base security was returning small arms fire. 

While the reality of possibly being hit with chemical or biological weapons was heavy on my mind, realizing that I could not defend myself should the base be over run was foremost in my mind.  Yes I had a machine gun.  Yes I was fully trained and ready to use it. But without ammo, it was just a hunk of steal weighing me down.  The scariest part of that night was realizing that I had no control over the situation.  If I lived or died was not only not up to me, there was very little I could do to increase my odds of survival.  The only thing that any of us could do was pray and wait.  

As we sat in that bunker, we understood that we were going to die.  If not in this bunker, or even in this war, then someday.  Some people smoked a last cigarette while others tried to laugh and tell jokes.  What did I do?  I prayed that we would live through the night.  And after that, we all ate and enjoyed the breakfast cereal bars that I had with me.  For the first time in my life, I lived for and in the moment.  The past was forgotten and the future not worried about.

I was a different man when I climbed out of that bunker.  The attack was over and I was still alive.  There was no special feeling of being a survivor or anything like that.  I was alive and that was that, time to head back to the tent and get some sleep.  I didn't realize it at the time but part of me did die that night and that part of me is still lying there dead in that bunker.  But like a sapling growing out of the ash after a forest fire, a new seed inside of me now had room to grow.  I have been sheltering and watering that seed ever since and slowly, it is growing.

I spent almost two years at war and that night was the only time I was ever scared.  I honestly knew no fear during the rest of my time in Iraq.  That was one of the good things that came from that night.  One of the bad things is that I know almost no-one now that I knew then and the relationships that I do still have are strained at best.  Like I said, the old me died that night.

It has been about 6 1/2 years since that night and the growth of new life inside of me is demanding that I let go of this last little patch of dirt I've dedicated to this moment in my life.  Now that I am almost whole again,  I have started to take bigger steps in life.  I feel I can open myself up to the world and I am not afraid to follow my dreams.  Through out the last 6 1/2 years Firefly has been the warmth and sunlight needed to help my heart grow…first as my friend and now as my wife.  Her words of encouragement were and still are like rain to my dry roots.

To make list: Item # 38

Sunday, October 18, 2009


There are many things that I want this blog to be and an outlet is close to the top of the list for me.  Thoughts and feelings fly around in my head all day long and the only way I can process them is to write them down.  Writing them down allows me to look at them from another prospective, to take a step back so to speak.  Also, once I write them down, I am free to leave them there and walk away from them.

I tend to keep my thoughts and feeling to myself.  Other then with Firefly I don't tend to share things because I don't trust people with them.  I guess if I am being honest, I am afraid of being hurt and hurting others.  But here is the best part...people don't have to read this blog if they don't want to.  As for me, I think it will be good to kick open some of the locked doors in my head and open a few windows.

So, here goes.   

Therapy 101, part 1

The plane landed in Kuwait in the late afternoon. The several hour flight from our home in Germany was finally over and had to be the most uncomfortable flight I've ever been on. Imagine being crammed on a cross-Atlantic flight in the dreaded 3,5,3 configuration and having to sit with your knees in your chest for the entire flight. Our weapons and gear were where our feet would go and so our feet had to be on top of it all.

We had to check all pocket knifes but were allowed o take are weapons, including my machine gun, on the plane.  We of course had to run them through an x-ray machine first!

After we landed in Kuwait, we then had to sit on the tarmac for another four hours  (knees still to chest) for a possible bomb to be investigated and removed.  Turns out it was just a suitcase that was somehow left out on the taxi way.

We deplaned and boarded a small, hot 30 person bus for a bus ride through Kuwait city.  I know we were headed to war and all but man, I wish that bus would have at least had padded seats.  I kept dozing of in the heat so I’m not sure how long the bus ride was but I think it was around an hour or so.

It was dark when we arrived at our staging base and had to find a place to bunk down till morning.  We finally found an empty tent and our platoon tied to get some sleep on the dusty bare floor. A short while we were told "the higher ups" had a different tent for us.  It turned out the other tent was on the other side of the camp. We loaded up our ruck sacs, gathered our two duffel bags, gear and weapons and slowly made our way the mile or so to the new tent through the ankle deep moon-like dust. 

Another solider decided he was tired of carrying his gear so he decided to steal a cargo truck so he wouldn't have to walk anymore.  The rest of us seized the chance to also lighten our load and tossed our gear onto the truck as quickly, and quietly as we could.

Almost as soon as we made it to the new tent, the alarms went off and we ran for the nearest bunker. The sirens meant one thing and one thing only....the base was under attack.  Scud missiles had been launched at us and we were helpless to defend ourselves.  If a missile were to hit the base near us, we would be killed.  Death would come either by being gassed or from some sort of biological agent within the missile....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Labels - Eggs and Coffee

Small Measure just had a post talking about the many different labels that eggs can have, ie:
  1. Animal Welfare ApprovedAmerican
  2. Humane Certified, or Certified Humane
  3. Cage Free
  4. Free Range  
  5. Natural
  6. Organic
  7. Pasture Raised
  8. United Egg Producers Certified     
I think you should check it out, it's a quick read with some good information.

It was funny that I read this yesterday afternoon because al morning I was thinking about the differnt coffee labels and which is best for the world, the farmer, and for me.  Here are the ones that I could think of:
  1.  Fair Trade- Coffee which is purchased directly from the growers for a higher price than standard coffee. Fair Trade coffee is one of many Fair Trade certified products available around the world. The purpose of fair trade is to promote healthier working conditions and greater economic incentive for producers. Coffee farmers producing Fair Trade certified coffee are required to be part of a coop with other local growers. The coops determine how the premiums from Fair Trade coffee will be spent. Growers are guaranteed a minimum price for the coffee, and if market prices exceed the minimum, they receive a per pound premium
  2. Shade Grown- Coffee grown under a canopy of trees. Because it incorporates principles of natural ecology to promote natural ecological relationships, shade-grown coffee can be considered an offshoot of agricultural permaculture.
  3. Organic Coffee - Coffee that has been certified as having been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.
  4. ECO-O.K - Labeling program co-managed by the Rainforest Alliance, applicable to coffee and other agricultural products. Firms pay a licensing fee to use an identifying logo; they are subject to a "chain of custody" auditing procedure that monitors the flow of product from farm to consumer. ECO-O.K. certification addresses a wide range of issues: fair treatment of workers, community relations, minimizing use of agrochemicals, integrated waste management, and conservation of water, soil, wildlife, and the entire ecosystem. 
  5. Mountain-grown coffee - Generally means coffee grown above 4,000 feet. Associated with a denser, harder, more flavorful bean because the fruits mature more slowly. High-elevation coffee is often shaded by near-constant cloud cover rather than a leafy canopy. 
 The list goes on and on.  Once you decide on a type of coffee, you then have the coffee shops to think about.  Local serving non fair trade vs. chain with organic shade-grown??? 

What do you think?  What kind of coffee do you buy to drink at home?  What types of coffee shops do you support?  What do you drink at work?

Here are some more labels for you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Crazy Weekend!

Wow, it's been busy around here!  This time it was my spontaneity that caused our busy weekend.  Saturday Firefly (my new blog name for my wife) and I went to a friends house and picked gobs (3 paper bags worth) of apples.  I was having so much fun that I had to be pulled away from the tree, I would have picked all day if we had the time.  After we picked our 3 bags and our friend picked their 2 bags, the tree look EXACTLY the same!  I can't believe the amount of apples that are on this tree.

Sunday morning we turned 3 bags of apples into 14 quarts of applesauce and some apple chips. Then turned all that fresh apple sauce into some amazing apple butter.  We let it cook down over night and then in the morning, Firefly added more applesauce and let the butter continue to reduce down.  Then while I was at work, she whipped the reduced applesauce into apple butter and let it simemr a little longer.  (Somewhere in the middle of all this she found time to make a wonderful gluten-free veggie chili which we had for dinner and then froze the extra for another night).

When I got home, we canned up 40 or so 1/4 pint jars of yummy goodness.  Any guesses as to what our friends and family are getting for Christmas?

Special thanks to our friend Matt who peeled, sliced, and cored the majority of the apples!

Thanks to Dad for the help on the food mill.  Thanks to Mom for the wall decal and pictures.

Potato Harvest


Epic Failure.  Okay, it wasn't THAT bad but the 40ish potatoes was no where close to the 60lbs I was expecting.  We did however learn lots from our first year as potato farmers...
  1. Less water...1-2inches a week is all.  I think we gave them about 1-2 inches a day!
  2. Plant the seed potatoes a little further apart
  3. Buy better seed potatoes...I think some of ours where duds
  4. Start sooner in the season
  5. Plant several types to have potatoes all season long
  6. Find a better way to back is STILL sore!
  7. Don't let the tomatoes bury/break the potato vines
The other bummer was that we did not get many potatoes more then 8inches about the seed potatoes.  I'm not sure if this is because of the above mentioned reasons or if they were mislabeled at the store...seemed a little shady.

No worries.  We had fun and will try again next year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party


It's time to carve up some pumpkins!  This will be the fourth year in a row that we have gone to a pumpkin carving party at our friend's house.  Two years ago my wife spent 2-3 hours carving her phoenix pumpking and the plane/wild things picture was from last year.

This year I am thinking of carving a helicopter and something with bees...I think the wife is going to go pretty artsy this year.

I want to invite all of you to join in on the fun this year by email me a picture of your carved pumpkin.  I'll post all the one I receive at the end of the month for everyone to see.  Once all the pumpkins are up, I'll post a poll so that people can vote and the winner will get a prize!

email to:

Thoughts on my bike

Click on the above picture to check out a really good You-tube bike/art/save the world video

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

Fall finally came, it just spent the night
We woke up this weekend and the hills were all white!
So we brought in some wood and the bikes with their tires
We snuggled up tight and built a warm fire

Old man winter came with his artic breathe
Killed our garden as he howled with glee
But try as he might
He failed to kill the broccoli!

We got the heater working
After a little putsin’ around
Then we caught some Spoken word
While we drank our coffee down

This was a family filled weekend
With Parents, Godson, and friends
Its time now to head to bed
To dream of ducks and hens