Vegetarian Friday: Pesto pasta

From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.

This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.

Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles

Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)

Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.

In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:


I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)


Folk Thursday: Jimmy Fallon and Neil Young

This is awesome.

On an unrelated note, here’s Day 2 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:


I bought this by mistake at the dollar store, forgetting I’d already bought the frame I needed for a picture I wanted to hang up. I don’t have anything else this size that needs to be framed, but I bet somebody else does. Into the giveaway box it goes.



Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Thanks to a quirk of the schedule, I’m now on Day 9 of a 10-day stretch with no days off, and on top of that, we’ve had several nights of subzero temperatures that forced me to move the quail into the garage; the better end of a foot of snow, which required quite a bit of digging out once the streets were cleared (and a 1.5-mile walk home from work in 5-degree weather while we waited, because getting a ride to the office at 2 p.m. is much easier than getting a ride home at 11 p.m.); and outrageously dry air that gave me terrible headaches two mornings in a row before I figured it out and plugged in the vaporizer. Anyway, here I am, and I’ve got an idea to share.

Today Yesterday was the first day of Lent, and somebody on Twitter started a thread asking people what they were giving up.

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t usually observe Lent, but as I was looking at another tiny-house website during some down time at the office, it occurred to me that I really need to start shrinking my inventory of unnecessary crap around here.

One thing led to another, and as I waited around for AP to send over a story I needed for the front page, I hatched a plan: Instead of giving up one thing for Lent, I’m going to take another positive step toward shrinking my environmental footprint by giving up one thing per day.

Once a day, probably right before bedtime, I’m going to go through the house, find one thing I don’t need and don’t use, and donate it to someone who can put it to good use.

For Ash Wednesday, I am giving up this:


Clock radios are nice. But I haven’t used this one since I got my iPhone, which has a perfectly reliable alarm clock built right in, and I’m not likely to use it again, so out it goes.

What are you giving up for Lent?


Eco-Saturday: Programmable Thermostats

A programmable thermostat will keep your energy costs down while you're away.
A programmable thermostat will keep your energy costs down while you’re away.

Here’s a cheap way to knock down your energy consumption: Replace your old thermostat with a programmable model. The government estimates you’ll save about $180 a year by programming your thermostat to turn the heat and a/c down when you’re asleep or away from the house and up when you’re home.

You can buy a basic programmable thermostat for $20 to $50. You can get fancier models with built-in Wi-Fi that lets you adjust the temperature remotely with your smartphone, but they’re more than $200 apiece and strike me as being completely unnecessary. If you think you’d use it enough to make it worth the price difference, go for it. Personally, I don’t see the point. If I had $200 to blow on electronics, I’d spend $30 on a thermostat and the rest on one of those sonic-screwdriver remote controls that allow you to walk into a sports bar and shut off any TV that annoys you just by giving it your very best Oncoming Storm glare and waving your sonic in its general direction.

Anyway. Ron says our thermostat cost less than $40 and took him about half an hour to install. You don’t need to be an electrician to do it; just throw the breaker to the thermostat, follow the directions in the package, and turn the power back on when you’re done. Allons-y!


Birds of the air

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Matt. 6:8

Sometime around 1989, my internal clock calibrated itself for Rawaki Island. This would be fine if I lived on Rawaki Island, but I don’t. Nobody else does, either, except for a few seagulls and feral rabbits, and I don’t think any of them are hiring.

I’m healthiest, happiest and most productive when I can go to bed about 3 a.m. and get up around 11. When I try to move that schedule up more than an hour or two, I end up with all kinds of obnoxious little symptoms that make life unpleasant and hamper my productivity.

I’ve tried every imaginable technique to reset my internal clock. I finally exhausted all my own ideas and sought help from a doctor, who recommended meditating; shutting off my electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime; and taking melatonin.

The melatonin made me sick; the other recommendations, while pleasant, did nothing to alter my natural sleep cycle.

Frustrated, I Googled “circadian rhythm” last night and discovered there’s a name for the way I’ve slept for the last quarter-century. It’s called delayed sleep phase syndrome, and it affects about 3 out of every 2,000 people.

DSPS can be very difficult to treat, and since most people have never heard of it and regard “my body runs on Kiribati Standard Time” as a bullshit excuse for sleeping in, the easiest solution for most people with DSPS is to find a job with a schedule that matches their internal clock and move on.

I’d never heard of DSPS when I sat down to meditate the other night, but as I settled into the Fortress of Solitude and tried to concentrate on my breathing, my mind started to wander (as usual), and I got to thinking about the Sermon on the Mount, which I decided was an acceptable thing to think about while meditating, since it’s practically a Zen text anyway and thus conducive to relaxation.

Less than 24 hours after I’d considered the lilies of the field and beheld the birds of the air, my boss called me into his office — apropos of nothing — to tell me he was switching me from reporting to copy editing.

This means I won’t have to be at work until 3 p.m., and I’ll be able to stay up until 3 a.m. every night without running late or making myself sick. I might even have time to squeeze in a jog before work.

Behold the birds of the air.

Especially the seagulls fishing on Rawaki Island.


Eco-Saturday: Inspiration

At about 730 square feet, our house is small but not tiny. My long-term goal is to retire to a tiny house in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. To that end, I spend a lot of time getting rid of things I don’t use, experimenting with various storage methods and trying to figure out how to cram my life into half my current square footage.

Even if you’re not planning to downsize to 350 square feet or less, you can draw a lot of inspiration from good design. With their multipurpose furnishings and clever hidden storage spaces, RVs are masterpieces of practical design. DIY campers are even better, as people design or modify spaces to suit their own personal needs.

Whether you’re trying to shrink your environmental footprint, simplify your lifestyle or just make your current house more presentable and less cluttered, it’s worth spending a few hours surfing websites for inspiration. Here are a few I’ve found recently that delight me to no end:

Hank Bought A Bus — A grad student wrapped up his master’s degree with a hands-on architecture project in which he converted an old school bus to living quarters, a la Bob Waldmire. (Bob’s still got one up on Hank, though. Hank’s bus doesn’t have a sauna.)

Tiny House, Giant Journey — A young couple travel the country, towing their Tumbleweed house behind them, meeting other tiny-house aficionados and documenting their adventures online.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company — Speaking of Tumbleweeds, don’t miss the company website, which is loaded with pictures and floorplans sure to inspire a few daydreams.

Tiny House Talk — What it says on the tin: Blog devoted to tiny houses and the people who love them.

Small House Bliss — Another blog, this one focused primarily on small-house architecture.

Go explore some of these links and see what takes shape in your imagination. Feel free to share your daydreams in the comments.


Vegetarian Friday: Caprese salad

I’m not sure this even deserves to be called a recipe, but it’s a good, high-protein meal you can throw together in under ten minutes.

Carton of cherry or grape tomatoes
Package of fresh mozzarella, drained
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, snipped into little shreds (if fresh isn’t available, just skip it; dried doesn’t taste right)

If you can find ciliegine — the bite-sized mozzarella balls packed in water — you can save a step here, but if you can’t, just buy a log of fresh mozzarella and cut it into chunks, as I did in the picture above. The important thing is to make sure you buy fresh mozzarella from the fancy-schmancy cheese display and not the drier stuff that comes in vacuum-sealed bags in the dairy case.

Toss the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (if using; I forgot to bring in a plant before winter and was too cheap to buy fresh basil at the store) in a big bowl, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and serve.

Sustainability on a shoestring


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