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Tiny Houses

November 8th, 2013

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of tiny houses, pouring over pictures and stories of others who’ve downsized and simplified their lives in such dramatic and intentional ways. I find the concept both aesthetically and philosophically pleasing. :)

There’s generally a back-to-nature feel to these houses with the focus on lots of windows for natural light, the loft beds, and the cozy porches. Add solar power, etc. to get “off the grid”, and you’re clearly living more lightly on the planet.

Here’s a short PBS segment on the tiny house movement…

And a moving TEDx talk from Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings who was featured in the above story:

She’s inspired many people with her journey and perspective on life, including this couple who have found freedom by being debt-free and mobile due to their tiny home…

Definitely an attractive lifestyle, wouldn’t you agree? My dream would be to have a few friends join me in setting up a circle of solar-powered tiny houses surrounding a common area on a nice chunk of land with a big vegetable garden and time to live life unencumbered.

Dr. McDougall on Paleo, Gluten Free, and GMO

October 14th, 2013

Here’s an interesting video from Dr. John McDougall that might prove a bit controversial (and he knows it). It’s his presentation at the September 2013 Advanced Study Weekend (Flamingo Resort and Hotel) entitled “Paleo, Gluten Free, and GMO – Distractions from Real World Food Problems.”

I certainly agree with his views on the Paleo diet (low carb diets in general), and it’s probably true that most people with self-diagnosed gluten issues don’t really have a sensitivity/allergy/etc.. Of course, neither of these critiques come as a surprise from the author of The Starch Solution. ;)

What did come as a surprise to me was his take on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which starts around the 36 minute mark. He seems to brush it off (he is calling these things distractions, after all), and suggests that while food labeling would be nice on principle, it’s not a big deal because we can just buy organic — at least for now — and check produce labels to ensure their numbers start with an 9. He suggests the health risks are overblown and that rise in the incidence of various diseases correlated to the introduction of GMOs actually started well before and thus is more likely attributable to other factors (diet being primary). Valid point. He also questions the integrity of the animal studies. However, even if we grant that health may be unaffected, the environmental consequences of gene transference to non-agricultural crops and microorganisms could be dire.

If you haven’t been following the whole GMO debate to this point or if you just want to hear the latest from the other side, i.e., those scientists and activists who feel genetically modified foods really are a danger all-around, then you’ll want to tune in to the upcoming GMO Mini-Summit from October 25-27.

⊙ Thierry Vrain, PhD
    The Former Pro GMO Scientist Speaks Out
⊙ Vandana Shiva, Ph.D.
    Food Security In A Global Community
⊙ Ken Cook
    Sustainable Agriculture for a Hungry World
⊙ Robyn O’Brien
    Fighting Food Allergies
⊙ Andrew Kimbrell
    Your Right To Know
⊙ Senator Lisa Murkowski (Unconfirmed)
    The Truth About “Frankenfish”
⊙ Michael Hansen, Ph.D.
    What Does The Science Tell Us?
⊙ Rachel Parent
    How to Debate Biotech Industry Apologists
⊙ Claire Robinson, MPhil
    The Science, The Spin, & The Truth
⊙ John Robbins and Jeffrey Smith
    Protect Your Family and Make a Difference
⊙ And many more in the “Second Wave” sessions to follow

Topics to be discussed include:
⊙ Studies revealing the health effects of GMOs on animals, humans and the environment
⊙ The possible GMO connection to allergies, autism, and leaky gut
⊙ How to help your family eat healthier and avoid GMOs
⊙ Ways to get involved and become active in the fight for GMO labeling and the future of agriculture

Register for free today to catch this online event.

Chickpea Pumpkin Curry

September 23rd, 2013

As we officially head into autumn, with the days and especially the nights starting to get cooler, I find my cooking naturally swinging away from the light and quick meals of the summer toward the hearty, rich, and sweetly spiced dishes of the new season.

I’ve already cooked up several batches of chili this month and more recently an 8×8 pan of apple crisp (from a bag of pick-your-own apples harvested with my Dad) briefly survived a couple days between the oven and my stomach. :)

Another meal that paid homage to the foods of fall was this impromptu chickpea pumpkin curry.

chickpea pumpkin curry

Near as I can recall, the ingredients, if not the exact measurements, were as follows:

  • 1 lb dried chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin, unsweetened
  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper (jalapeno, if you like)
  • curry powder, etc., to taste

Aside from the cooking time to ready the garbanzo beans, this was as quick as a summer meal and super easy. The pumpkin didn’t add much flavor of its own in comparison to the rest of the ingredients, but it did create a nice mouthfeel. Definitely a keeper.

Kid-Friendly Hikes in NH

September 2nd, 2013

While we haven’t done as much hiking this year as last, the good news is Scott’s daughter is now at an age (almost six) where she, and hence her mother, can join us on some of our adventures.

The trick is not the elevation, as kids like to climb things, but rather the length of the excursion. So it was that the first hike of the year saw us revisiting Pawtuckaway’s South Mountain, just via a different, steeper yet shorter (0.4 miles), back route known as Tower Trail.

Getting to the trailhead was an adventure in itself as we wound our way along a seemingly never-ending, very bumpy/rutted dirt road. At one point — which turned out to be a bit scary for the little one — we were practically driving thru a beaver-dammed marsh as the water came right up to the edge of the road on either side. Unfortunately, I have no pictures from this part of the trip, but here’s a sampling of the hike itself.

beautiful deep woods

Scott trailblazing the rocky slope

the firetower at the summit

one of the views from the tower

For the summer’s second hike, along the Boulder Field Trail, also at Pawtuckaway State Park, we stayed on more level ground and extended the time. We ended up walking out for about 45 minutes to an hour and then back the same way. The calculations were almost spot on as only the last five to ten minutes were tiring for the young’un.

after some time, you come upon a stunning body of water
complete with islands and kayakers

geese along the marshy edge
(word is great blue herons live here too)

my favorite pic (a cropped version is now my Facebook cover image)

The last picture is of one of the “glacial erratics… deposited when glacial ice melted near the end of the Ice Age.” If you look closely, you’ll see a climber about a third of the way up. The trail splits before this formation giving you the option to walk along the top. We vowed to go that way when we next make this trek.

Scott’s daughter had a blast both times and is excited to get in more hikes. Alas, the next one we have planned is Mount Sunapee with the guys, rather a more ambitious undertaking, but there will be more kid-friendly hiking in the future. If you’re looking to introduce your children to the joys of nature, the two here are a great place to start.

Deluscious Vegan Cookies

August 16th, 2013

I recently had the honor of receiving a beautiful gift package from Deluscious Cookies + Milk containing four of the six flavors from their new vegan line of cookies!

As is probably obvious just from looking at the pictures below, these were definitely guilty pleasures. :)

Click an image to view larger in new window.

Of course, I’ve never had their non-vegan cookies, but these tasted as you would expect a gourmet cookie to taste; they were very rich, dense, chewy, and super sweet. Indeed, according to the description of the vegan oatmeal raisin on their site, “some say this is better than our classic” version. That’s always nice to hear.

I like to bake my own healthy cookies, so it’s rare that I buy them, but it was a fun indulgence and I’m happy to bring the “VeLuscious” lineup to your attention. The more companies start offering vegan options, the better.

My favorites were the Chocolate Decadence which reminded me of a big chocolate donut ball covered in a crystallized sugar glaze and the cinnamon sugar which was similar in flavor to a snickerdoodle. Didn’t get to try the peanut butter though. ;)

Disease Prevention with a Vegan Diet

July 25th, 2013

I really like Dr. Greger’s presentation style: quick, often funny, and jam-packed with persuasive arguments for a vegan (or at least plant-based) diet, backed by peer-reviewed research and data.

His talk last year on The Leading Causes of Death really made an impression on friends and family. I predict the same for his latest yearly wrap-up entitled More Than an Apple a Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases.

As before, I recommend you set aside the hour it takes to watch as Michael Greger, M.D. “runs through the top dozen reasons people visit their doctors.” As he puts it, “the sixth leading cause of death may actually be doctors,” referring to the estimated 100,000 Americans killed each year due to adverse drug reactions.

Add in medical mistakes (which the Institute of Medicine estimates kills at least 44,000 Americans) and that brings “health”care up to our country’s third leading cause of death. Throw in hospital-acquired infections, and we’re talking maybe 187,000 Americans dead every year (and millions injured) by medical care.

This presentation is his response to these dire statistics, to help people “avoid getting sick in the first place… in hopes of moving my colleagues and me lower down the list of common killers.” :)

Available on DVD.

Note: If you use that link to purchase, I get a small cut of the sale, at no extra cost to you.

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