Eco-Saturday: Blanket shades

October 18, 2014
Falsa blankets make inexpensive, insulative window coverings.

Falsa blankets make inexpensive, energy-efficient window coverings.

I swiped this idea from my mom, who made Roman shades out of quilts to insulate her windows. I’m too cheap to buy quilts — and much too lazy to make them — but I love falsa blankets, which fit my Southwestern sensibilities and can be had for $10 or less at just about any truck stop on Route 66.

To make a Roman shade out of a falsa blanket, you will need:

1. Falsa blanket
2. 15 small plastic rings
3. 1×2 about an inch longer than the width of your window
4. Three small screw eyes
5. Nylon cord
6. Sewing machine or needle and thread
7. Scissors
8. Cordless drill
9. Screwdriver
10. Pins
11. Three deck screws
12. Cleat hook

Instructions are below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Vegan Friday: Trail mix cookies

October 17, 2014
These all-natural vegan cookies are full of fruit, nuts and whole grain.

These all-natural vegan cookies are full of fruit, nuts and whole grain.

I hesitate to call these “low carb,” because there’s a ton of fruit in them, so I’m sure the sugar content is ridiculous, but they definitely have a higher good-stuff-to-crap ratio than a standard cookie, and I’m finding they satisfy junk-food cravings fairly nicely. They’ll also stand in for breakfast in a pinch; I’ve been eating them all week, and four or five of them will carry me through the day quite nicely. Apologies for the terrible photo quality; my iPhone camera decided to act the fool for some reason.


The must-haves
(Note that amounts are approximate)

3 overripe bananas
About 1 c. chopped dates
About 1/2 c. natural peanut butter
About 2 c. rolled oats
About 1 c. shredded coconut (optional, but increase the oats if you don’t use it)

Other niceties
Raisins, chopped nuts, finely chopped dried fruit, vegan chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, whatever


Mashed bananas and chopped dates provide the sweetness.

Mashed bananas and chopped dates provide the sweetness.

Mash up the bananas. Stir in dates and peanut butter. If using raisins, nuts, etc., you can stir those in now. (I used a handful each of some golden raisins and black walnuts I had on hand.)

Peanut butter adds fat and protein.

Peanut butter adds fat and protein.

Add oats until your thick batter turns into a thick dough. You want it sticky but thick enough that the cookies hold together when you drop them onto the cookie sheet. If using coconut, add it with the oats.

Grease a cookie sheet (I have become a giant fan of Baker’s Joy, but plain old margarine would work just fine) and drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto it. You don’t need to leave much space between the cookies, because they won’t spread or rise as they bake.

Add rolled oats until the batter becomes a thick, sticky dough.

Add rolled oats until the batter becomes a thicky, sticky dough.

Bake at 350 degrees until tops are browned and cookies are fairly firm when you touch them. If they seem gooey or squishy, they need to bake longer. If they’re soft but springy, they’re ready.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Folk Thursday: Everybody, pretty much

October 16, 2014

Pete’s 90th birthday concert. Basically everybody and their dog singing “We Shall Overcome.” (And can we just talk about how delighted I was to hear that the Ferguson October protesters were singing “We Shall Overcome” in the streets the other day, the way God intended? Somewhere in heaven, Pete Seeger was high-fiving Mary Travers. I’m sure of it.)


A word on Ebola

October 15, 2014

Started my morning ridiculing some particularly irresponsible headlines about Ebola, which has now infected a grand total of three people in the United States (two of whom were treating the first one, who picked it up while rushing a sick woman to the hospital in Liberia).

Got to work late (largely because I’d wasted half my morning on Twitter, making fun of the panicky headlines) and was promptly assigned a last-minute story about whether our local hospitals are prepared to handle an Ebola patient if one shows up.

God bless our local public-safety folks, who all said, in essence: “Yes, we’re taking logical steps to deal with it in the unlikely event it happens. No, you’re not going to get Ebola. Now, go get your damn flu shot.”

Here’s a cold, hard fact: In the United States, your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are significantly higher than your chances of dying of Ebola.

Things that are far more likely to kill you than Ebola:

1. Lightning
2. Your dog
3. Obesity

Are you afraid of storms, household pets, or bacon cheeseburgers? If not, you probably need to quit worrying about Ebola and focus your energy on something more pressing — like whether San Francisco can get into the World Series so I don’t have to root for the damned Cardinals this year.


Little blessings

October 14, 2014

Little blessings today:

1. I tried this excellent yogurt recipe last night. It turned out well and saved me some major cleanup hassles. I’ll blog about it one Saturday in the near future.

2. I finally got hold of two sources I’ve been trying to reach for over a week, so the deadlines I’d been worried about suddenly became less worrisome. After 30 years, you’d think I’d be used to the last-minute nature of this business, but sometimes I lose the rhythm and forget that things have a way of coming together when I need them to, if not necessarily when I want them to.

3. I went to cancel our gym membership tonight, since we don’t use it as much as we’d hoped, and the contract was set to expire this month. The guy who filed my paperwork said if I’d come in one day later, I’d have ended up being billed for another month. I almost waited, because I was tired and hungry when I left the office, but I decided to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t have to think about it any more. SCORE.


My promise to you

October 13, 2014

So I’ve been spending more time on Pinterest since I dumped Facebook a couple of months ago, and I’m noticing an unfortunate trend that mirrors my experience with far too many cookbooks and magazines:

Vegetarian recipes — especially those of the vegan persuasion — are outrageously inconvenient and/or expensive.

Example du jour: I found a vegan tiramisu recipe tonight that looked promising — until I discovered it took nearly an hour to make and required me to make my own sponge cake and hunt down two containers of vegan whipped cream and some kind of prefabbed “coffee beverage” made of coconut milk.

Crap like this is why going vegetarian is so difficult. If people aren’t asking you to spend hours on fools’ errands, they’re sending you on scavenger hunts for things like vegan Cool Whip.

I won’t do this to you. I promise. Over the past nine and a half months, I’ve posted 39 recipes, I think, and IIRC, only three of them (hummus, tahini salad and nooch nachos) absolutely require the use of somewhat exotic ingredients — all things you’ll want to keep on hand if you do much vegan cooking anyway. The rest can be made on the fly, using ingredients you can find at any regular grocery store.

That was the whole point of Vegan Friday. I’m not a vegan at the moment, but I eat a lot more vegetarian meals now than I did before I started this project, because I have a nice assortment of cheap, fast, convenient recipes in my repertoire — and that was really my goal. When I know I can put a batch of fajitas or a plate of chili mac on the table in less time than it takes to drive through McDonald’s, I’m more likely to eat at home, and I’m betting you are, too.

I was thinking about ending Vegan Friday with the Dec. 26 edition, because my goal was to do it for a year, and I was afraid I’d run out of ideas. But I’m thinking instead of quitting, I might expand it a bit — maybe call it Vegetarian Friday and open it up to lacto-ovo recipes — and keep going. We’ve come a long way since 1992, when I literally had to draw a picture for the waitress while ordering pizza with a vegan scholar bowl teammate. But as Pinterest has demonstrated quite clearly, we still have a long way to go … and I kind of enjoy having a few readers along for the ride to keep me motivated.


P.S.: If you’re on Pinterest, you can follow Vegan Friday here and Eco-Saturday here.

A View of the Bridge

October 12, 2014


It’s fuzzy and grainy and about what you’d expect from an iPhone under less-than-ideal lighting conditions, but I still love this view of the bridge from the riverfront. I really ought to paint it one of these days.



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