Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tiny Choices Survey: Kai!

Tiny Choices Survey: Kai!
By tinychoices | February 12, 2010
Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website/blog)?
Kai Rikken, 30, SML, Virginia. I blog at
How do you reside (apartment or house, roommates)? Are your housing decisions dictated by choice or necessity? Please explain.
I live with my two young daughters and two dogs in a lake house that my grandparents built. It is a decision based on both necessity and choice, but I do love living here and keeping it all in the family.
How do you travel (transit, car, etc)?Are your travel decisions dictated by choice or necessity? Please explain.
Out here in rural Virginia I don’t really have a choice; I travel by car (at about 31 mpg). It takes at least 20 minutes to get anywhere by car, and so I combine errands as much as possible and usually only go out once or twice a week. My dream car is the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI :)
Tell us about a Tiny Choice you’ve made in your life.
I’ve switched my house over to safer & healthier products and am helping others do the same!
What is the one environmental dilemma you personally struggle the most with?
I struggle with my living situation not being quite as green as I would like it to be. For instance, I’d like to be generating my own power and growing more of my own food.
What is one Tiny Choice you can make in that direction?
I just take it one step at a time, do what I can on a daily basis and try not to stress about what I can’t (yet) do. I reuse and recycle as much as I can, use environmentally friendly products, and most of all, teach my children about the impact we have on the earth.
What is the one environmental Tiny Choice you make that people question (in either a positive educational or a negative hassle way) you the most about?
I probably get the most comments about my food choices. I have been vegetarian since I was 10 and I buy mostly organic. Many of the people I interact with locally have more of an “all-American” diet, and so I get a lot of questions about what I eat and why.
What is the one environmental Tiny Choice you would like every single person to adopt?
Be alert! The world needs more lerts! Seriously, though, simply becoming more aware of your actions and their consequences is a huge step in the right direction.
Do you feel like you make sacrifices for environmentalism? Please explain.
If I do, they don’t really seem like sacrifices to me. I suppose I tend to take the path of greater resistance and wash my plastic baggies, cloth diaper my kids, etc. It might be easier and quicker to throw out disposables but I feel so guilty using a paper plate or coffee cup.
Are you generally: optimistic, pessimistic, neutral about environmentalism and the future?
I consider myself an optiMYSTIC. Humans in general tend to be selfish and careless, and we might have really messed things up on our planet, but the way I see it, it’s probably all part of something even bigger. Hopefully we’ll do better the next time around.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bread Pudding

A little warming comfort food for those of you who are snowed in. Best served warm with milk.

Bread Pudding

6 slices day old bread
2 tbs. melted butter
handful of raisins (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar (unrefined or turbinado work well)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F.Break bread into small pieces and place into an 8x8 baking pan. Drizzle melted butter over bread.  Scatter raisins on top, if using. In a medium bowl, beat eggs.  Add milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, and beat until well mixed.  Pour egg and milk mixture over bread, and push down until bread is covered and soaking up the liquid.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pudding puffs up slightly and springs back when lightly tapped.

Hooray! We’re Snowed In!

While it seems that the majority of my contacts on Facebook are more annoyed than thrilled about the white blanket covering much of the East Coast, I am really enjoying the amount of snow we've been getting this winter! Last year we only got one good snowstorm, in March. Before that, I can't even remember the last time I saw more than an inch or two accumulate in Virginia.
This year it started with that big snowstorm in December, just three days before our trip to Estonia. The timing of that snowstorm couldn't have been much better. My best friend was visiting from Europe, and I had told her that it doesn't really snow much here. All of a sudden, the sky opened up and a few hours later we had over a foot of snow. What a treat! Lovely, thick, snow, perfect for sledding and snowman building, and lots of it! At the same time, it was a bit nerve wracking. We weren't sure if we'd be able to get the car out of the driveway, but then, with all the flight cancellations at Dulles International Airport, we weren't sure if we would even have to! Luckily the runways did get cleared in time, we got the car out, and the drive to Dulles was a bit treacherous in only a few spots. On the road, we saw pickup trucks carrying loads of snow and joked that they must be stocking up; you never know when we'll get more snow like this!

It turned out that there was no shortage of snow in Estonia, either. It snowed practically every day of the three weeks we were there. It stayed cold, so instead of melting and getting all slushy and slippery, it just kept accumulating. And unlike here in Virginia, where people start freaking out at the mere thought of inclement weather, in Estonia you just keep shoveling the driveway until there is no place left to put the snow.

We finally have a winter like I remember from my childhood. And yet today I experienced an unsettling feeling while reading comments from several of my friends who have had power outages. I realized, not for the first time, how unprepared we would be in the event of an electrical outage or a natural disaster. When I was in Oregon, we lived off the grid. Not having power was the norm, and we ran a generator only when we needed to. We took showers in spring water heated by the sun in the summer, and by wood fires in the winter. Here, however, we are so dependent on the "grid", on gasoline, on public water lines, and we take it all for granted. So what happens when the power goes out? I'd really prefer to be more prepared and self sufficient. Modern technology is amazing, but the way we are so dependent on it is a bit frightening. My computer was in the shop, getting repaired for the better part of last week. I found the week to be very grounding and revitalizing, as I was forced to find activities besides sitting in front of the computer pretending to be productive. The house got cleaned. Junk drawers got organized. I exercised. I made phone calls and reconnected with friends I hadn't spoken to in years. Throughout the week I found myself habitually gravitating towards the computer room, but it was almost disappointing when I got the call that my computer was ready to be picked up. You may recall that in my last post, I pondered who was responsible for the perpetual mess and clutter in our house, and I have now discovered that it is my computer. I kid you not; within 10 minutes of me bringing the computer in, my freshly cleaned and organized house was already slipping back to its previous state. I have now decided to switch off my computer for one day every week. I'm excited to implement my plan, and hope that my upcoming school semester allows me to do it!

Perhaps it would do us all some good to make a shift, no matter how small, towards a more simple life. When I say "simple", of course, I don't necessarily mean more convenient, but instead slowing down a bit, connecting more with our daily activities and hopefully becoming more self sufficient in the process. Chop wood, carry water.

And now, I'm off to make some snow angels and try to find my compost pile.

What do you like to do when you get snowed in? How much do you depend on the "grid" on a daily basis?