I rarely actually use cardamom. I'm more of a basil and oregano and red chili girl.


Funny thing...

Looking at the date of the last post here, I can't be entirely sure... but yes, it does seem... That would have taken place about the time that I found out I was pregnant with my son.

Since his birth, there's been another, my daughter.

And life at Cardamom Tango sure has changed...
but I think my spirit is still in it.  So let's give it another go.


Favorite Posts from ... well ... way back

Ok, so this winter, my clothes would have frozen before they dried, if I'd hung them outside.  And drying all of them inside would have been a mess.  But, articles like this one from More Minimal inspired me to try to air dry more of my clothes.  And who knows, maybe with the recent Green Revolution in my home, it might become all.

We don't have a baby, but if we do, The Exotic Foreigner may be handed this article from Ohdeedoh about modern art by dremel for nurseries.

I love this bit from Trent @ The Simple Dollar about why it's okay that his towels don't match his bathroom curtains.  (It's not because he's a guy.)


Earth Hour 2010

Just a friendly reminder in advance: Earth Hour 2010 will be March 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm local time.  My own suggestions for what to do with no electricity for an hour:

  • Host a storytelling hour with raw foods for snacks.
  • Go for a walk
  • Plan an electricity-free block party
  • Hold a candlelight vigil for peace
  • Play cards/board games
  • Meditate or pray
  • Go to bed early


Saving Money and Going Green

By now, you probably have figured out that a lot of the things you can do to go green also save you money.  Changing to CFLs.  Turning down the thermostat.  Carpooling.  Etc.

We had already done a lot in those categories (although I am still looking for a workable carpool).  I thought we had done all we could do until I got our January electric bill.  We have a heat pump, so most people could have told me it would be bad.  I just had no idea.

So, we started by turning the thermostat down to 55 (F) when we left for work.  The Exotic Foreigner ordered us a programmable thermostat.  I conducted an informal survey on Facebook regarding where other thermostats were set.  Most were between 68 and 72, and ours sat at the lower end of that spectrum.  And then someone floored me with a response of 60 degrees all day and all night!

I couldn't help it.  This person and I are so alike that I felt almost like I should already be on that bandwagon.  I had turned the setting up to 68 when I got home, but went to turn it down.  The next day, it stayed at 60 all day and I was very comfortable! A coworker suggested closing vents in seldom-used rooms, so I did that as well.

I'll have to wait until the bill comes to report on our savings, and even then, we will wait to see the effects of the programmable thermostat.  I am thinking we may take it much lower during the day, and somewhat lower at night.  It may be next winter before we have definitive results. But what I can tell you about the green side of things is that:
According to several sources including wearewhatwedo.org, turning down the thermostat by 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) can reduce carbon emissions by .89kg/day.
We reduced our thermostat by 4.5 degrees C (20 to 15.5), so we are reducing our impact by about 4.5 kg of carbon emission per day.

Now, I have heard that the programmable thermostats are all the rage when it comes to saving energy.  Can anyone tell me why my uncle thinks that turning down the thermostat for some time periods does not save money?  He argues that using the emergency heat strips uses more energy than it's worth.  Are we all being duped by the programmable thermostat push?  Or are older heat pumps the only ones this applies to?  Or doe they, yes, use more energy heating up but less energy than if we were keeping the house that warm to begin with?  Does it depend on the size of your home?

Image credit:


Nets not Caskets

I was shocked this morning when I logged into my facebook account and found that my friend Jeremy had malaria.

He and Tamara, his wife and my good friend, have been in Uganda for about a year.  They are working in the Masese slums, and to tell you what they do would be a bit difficult.  They have several projects going on there, and I think the descriptions are best coming from them.  You can read about them at http://www.boonesinafrica.com.

I write about this today because I am also reading The End of Poverty, by Jeffery D. Sachs.  In this book, Sachs describes the poverty trap that keeps many societies from getting a foothold on the ladder out of poverty.  Malaria is one of the obstacles that keeps civilizations down.  The depressing fact is that it is only one of the challenges to helping other societies defeat extreme poverty, but it is probably one of the first that must be addressed.

If you explore a bit on the Boones' page, you will see that you can donate to Nets not Caskets through their sponsor, Equip International.  I have not researched other charities through which you can do this, but I am aware of their existence.  If you have a desire to help people get a foothold up, this is one very direct way to do it.

Another interesting project you will find on their page is "Way Out," in which women of the Masese slum have begun making jewelry in order to bring in some income.

I am writing this as a sort of advertisement, yes, but not necessarily only for Jeremy and Tamara's benefit.  I hope that you might donate to them, but if not, please join me on my quest for knowledge regarding how we who are so tremendously wealthy can truly help those who are not as fortunate.  Stay tuned for more on this, especially when I have finished The End of Poverty.

Book Review: Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible

Kingsolver, Barbara.  The Poisonwood Bible.  New York: Harper Collins, 1998.

I found The Poisonwood Bible on a friend's bookshelf in the company of volumes of poetry, classics, and, closest to its own nature, politically-themed books.  Knowing already that I liked Barbara Kingsolver's writing, I took a snowy, solitary weekend to read most of the pages, and finished in a hurry, licking my chops for more.

The Poisonwood Bible is the story, the fictional account, of Nathan Price's rebellious, unapproved missionary journey to the Congo with the idea of saving souls.  The story describes Price's utter failure in all areas: his family is sacrificed for the journey, his ideals are proven non-applicable in the Congo, and the Congolese, because Price is dismissive and sometimes hateful toward them, are largely uninterested in what Price has to say.  The focus of the novel becomes what happens to his family, but the reader always hopes that Price fails or repents.

What drew me to this work of historical fiction was first its style.  You begin the story as a member of the cast of characters, instructed to look down from the trees at the family in the middle of the first part of their struggle.  Tellingly, the father is excluded from this picture; it is a mother, her four daughters and an impending tragedy.  Each of these takes turns telling what happens, and some do so from a multi-dimensional perspective.

Secondly, I latched on to this book because I cared about the main characters.  On the reverse of this, I hated Nathan Price.  He was an easy one to hate, but it tells all-too-personal information about me to even admit that.  To hate such a one-dimensional character might mean that I was looking for someone at whom to direct my anger.  It might mean that I immediately gobbled up every word that Kingsolver wrote about bad missionaries.  It might mean that I cursed the Underdowns, who lived in a palace compared to the Congolese they were to be serving.  It might mean that I thought Nathan Price symbolized many (though not all) missionaries to that region at that time.  It is this last bit - what does Nathan Price symbolize - that troubles me.

I know former missionaries to the Congo, and they are nothing like the Underdowns, nor do they in any way resemble Nathan Price.  It took me a minute to come down off my high horse, as Ruth May might put it, but it is not logical to think that I have met the only missionary family to the Congo not composed of fundamentalist, hard-headed goons or passive, unhappy wives, both unaware of the situation into which they flew.  So, I wrote to my dear friend, who immediately responded.  He first told me that there is no historical account of what happened in the Congo that does not have a slant to it in one direction or another.  This fact does not surprise me; perhaps the accounts in Congo are a bit more biased, but all historical accounts have a biased (as Kingsolver's work of fiction is also entitled to have).  I will quote him below, as I think he describes it as only one who has been there can:

Her missionary and his family resemble nothing that I saw in Congo and does not remotely resemble the majority of missionary work around the world. Back in the beginnings of missionary efforts, missionaries seldom stayed alone very long. They tended to congregate into mssion posts. The protestant effort was dedicated to presenting the Gospel to the natives in their own language. Since there were no written languages in most of sub-Sahara Africa, the first task was to develop an orthographiy, vocabulary and grammar and then translate the Bible.Then, of course, one had to teach the natives to read and write. Schools were among the first establishments. Because the missionaries always seemed to have so much in the way of resources, they soon found sick and injured people coming to them for help. Medical work developed very quickly. The typical mission station (such as where we lived and worked) was a collection of missionary homes, a church, a school complete with dormitories and then a  hospital. A village would grow around these facilities. Also in the early years of our own mission (of the Southern Branch of the Presbyterian church) there was a substantial number of African Americans among the missionaries. There was an agricultural school and a school of industrial arts.
Contrary to the bleak picture painted by Kingsolver, this paints the mission, yes, as having a main goal of converting the Congolese to Christianity, but not ignoring the value of the human lives and stories, and not at all as a simple, one-track goal.  Kingsolver herself makes some efforts to ensure that we do not see Nathan Price as typical of the American missionary of the time: the church did not really want him there and only partially funded him.  The church did not condone Nathan Price or his mission.  Perhaps this is her point about American extremist Christianity: the true church does not condone self-righteous exploits like Price's.  Perhaps Price in meant to represent one side of the story only; maybe Price is the aggressive United States that does what it has to to get its way, and his helpless wife Orleanna represents the victims of such exploits.  Even so, are there not several sides to every story?
Obviously, this conflict is still not resolved for me.  Barbara Kingsolver did go to the Congo to research, and she worked with people who had experienced those tumultuous times, and read the best books available on the subject.  I do not doubt that she met people there for whom this story is very real in some way.  I think it is possible that she came to the conclusion that if she wanted to write something advocating for those people, something that might raise awareness of why Africa is where she is today, she did have to create one-dimensional characters.  After all, if we could understand all the different viewpoints, and everyone's reasoning for his actions, we might well have solved a lot of the problems there by now.  The problem, however, is the people who will read this, and, like me, become angry at the wrong people.  That solves nothing.

Overall, I recommend this book.  It is a work of fiction, and should certainly be read as such.  The historical events described from the mid-point of the book onward are, as best as I can tell, accurate, as well as quite interesting.

4 out of 5 stars.


Another Healthy Breakfast

By "another" I mean it to follow the smoothie entry.  Not the crockpot french toast one.  Because that's not healthy at all.  In a way, though, this is a compromise, since this will warm you up while providing a lot of yummy nutrition.

So, I use milk on this one.  You know very well that you can use water.
I use about 2 cups of milk and one cup of oats for two people.  Add a splash of vanilla right away.
Once the oats are about halfway done, I beat two egg whites, and stir them in, along with a handful or two of any frozen berries I have on hand for smoothies and 1/4th cup ground almond.  When the oats are cooked, I turn off the eye, but leave them over the heat and stir in 1/4th cup ground flax seed and two bananas, sliced small, and put the cover on while I make some tea or coffee.  Spoon into giant mugs or bowls and top with honey.
This recipe is for two breakfast people.  If you're used to an apple on the run, you might want to cut this in half or smaller.
Doing it this way prevents the fruit from cooking more than is needed.


General Update

...in which I introduce you to a military officer whose last name is pronounced [oop-dah-tay].

That was really bad.

I only have a bit of time this morning to post some general updates from recent articles.

  • Remember a few days ago when I discussed the Hazards of Sugar and I said I wanted to find out why agave nectar was considered a good alternative to sugar?  Well, The Kitchn just posted a little info on the subject, and apparently it's not.  I encourage you to read and decide for yourself, but it sounds like the stuff is more like HFCS than a natural way to sweeten.  They also link to a defense of agave nectar by a producing company.  I mean, we really have to choose what to believe when it comes to these things, but the articles are more or less in line with what I learned from the Hazards of Sugar lecture: sugar is a poison that cannot be processed completely under all circumstances.  We should choose wisely when and how to sweeten.
  • My book order came in the mail and I've just started reading The End of Poverty.  Let me tell you--it is heart-wrenching.  I'm looking forward to getting to the solutions portion.  


2010: First Year of Veggie Gardening Seed Order!

Here is my seed order for my very first vegetable garden!


I'm afraid I'll jinx it...

But something I've been doing has been working.

For years, I struggled with keeping my energy up.  I would commit to do something I truly wanted to do, and even things that related to a passion, and find myself just not doing it.  My favorite way to avoid the things I needed to do was by reading online.  It wasn't for a love of reading, because I would avoid the books I wanted to read.  And it wasn't a terrible habit, because a lot of good came out of it, such as Cardamom Tango herself.  The amount of time I was spending online was a problem, however, and I knew that it wasn't the internet that was calling me.  It was one thing that summoned me when my energy dropped.

Now, I am doing things like writing on a daily basis, keeping my home presentable, composting, cooking at home instead of eating out, and avoiding being snappy at The Exotic Foreigner.  What changed?

Several things.  Not only did the internet summon me when my energy levels dropped, but so did caffeine.  I haven't cut out caffeine entirely, but it has been replaced as my go-to remedy.  Instead, I get some exercise.  If I am home, I turn on the Wii Fit and give myself 30 minutes fun playtime with the only requirement being that I get moving.  It doesn't have to be a lot of exercise.  I just need to move.  At work, I have the freedom to take a walk if I need to, or walk the stairs if it's ugly outside.

The other change came at the suggestion of my life coach.  I don't want to write too much about our conversation, but the bottom line is that there was a very large part of me who did not want to waste hours away, and who knew that this was feeding low energy.  Instead of banning internet, as I'd tried to do, I banned the internet from the me that feels guilty about it.  At the very moment that I feel guilty about spending the time on the internet, I leave.  This is a terrible explanation, because sometimes we feel guilty when we should not.  I guess the difference is that at my core self, and in this situation, I experienced "guilt" as the manifestation of the feeling that I did not actually want to be on the internet, but was there to avoid something else.

I took a break from cleaning up the kitchen to write about this.  It's a great freedom to know that I can do that.


The Hazards of Sugar

I mentioned earlier that I was going to watch The Hazards of Sugar, and have now done so.  I link to a link of the videos for two reasons: first, it was through Eat. Drink. Better. that I came across the lecture in the first place, and also because if you haven't heard of that blog and you are interested in food, you're missing out.  I cannot believe how fast the presentation went.  Some of the biochemistry was a bit over my head, but all in all it made a lot of sense.

The speaker, University of San Francisco professor John Lustig, sets out to prove that fructose is the main culprit in the fights against several diseases and conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension.  During the 90-minute lecture, he successfully shows a correlation between that chemical and several of these diseases, and then goes on to illustrate why that is.  This illustrated what I had long known to be true -- high fructose corn syrup is bad.  But, previous to watching, I was not aware that sucrose acted in the same way.  In addition, and this may sound pretty ignorant, I sort of thought fructose outside of the super concentrated syrup was okay, and I learned here that it "sort of"is and "sort of"is a poison.  I was a little nervous that I was going to have to stop eating fruit until Dr. Lustig pointed out that nature provides the antidote -- in this case, fiber.  Wipe the sweat off that brow, I can keep making those smoothies.

On the other hand, I now have further research to do.  I would like to know why agave is considered a good alternative to sugar.  There's no fiber in that bottle of it I bought the other day.  And also, I would like to know why I do not trust Splenda or related sweeteners.  I wonder what sort of effect they have on the liver and the rest of the body.


Reading List: January - March 2010

My previous entry indicated that my January/February Reading list would be next, and so it is.  Except, plus a month.  (March, for those waiting in suspense.)  I have already completed The Poisonwood Bible and will write a review when I receive my copy in the mail (I was borrowing it from a friend and loved it so much I used a paperback swap credit to get my own copy.)  Not all of them have to do with my theme of social justice; some are simply on my want-to-read list.

Kingsolver, Barbara.  The Poisonwood Bible.  New York: Harper Collins Press, 1999.

Rubin, Robert Aldin.  On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage.  New York: The Lyons Press, 2000.

Sachs, Jeffery.  The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time.  New York: Penguin Press, 2006.

Allende, Isabel.  Paula.  Trans. Margaret Sayers. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.

Kingsolver, Barbara.  Pigs in Heaven.  New York: Harper Collins Press, 1994.

Collier, Paul.  The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About it.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

In addition, I have three gardening books that I won't read cover to cover but will skim thoroughly and probably comment on a lot during my first year of vegetable gardening:

Riotte, Louise.  Carrots Love Tomatoes. Rev. ed.  Edited by Needham, Julia and Deborah Burns.  North Adams: Storey Publishing, 1998.

Ellis, Barbara W. and Fern Marshall Bradley, eds.  The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy without Chemicals.  Emmaus: Rodale, 1996.

Smith, Edward C.  The Vegetable Gardener's Bible.  2nd ed.  Madigan, Carleen and Gwen Steege, eds.  North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2007.


New Year's ReVolutions

Some believe in making resolutions and others do not.  I find I often have trouble sticking to resolutions no matter when I make them, unless they have to do with something about which I am passionate.

The crisis in Haiti, and all the effort into increasing awareness around why Haiti is in the political and economic shape it is, have awakened (or re-awakened?) a passion within me for making the world a better place.  It is an easy time to say that: everyone's doing it, and those such as Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson that are speaking against it simply look stupid.

Haiti has been taken advantage of for years.  Any "devil" they may have dealt with has World Bank's pitchfork and the IMF's pointy tail, and is the same one that many deals that devil has made with countries around the world.  I am no expert on the matter, but I wish to become one.

And THAT is the true root passion behind this blog.  I like sustainable living because I wish that I was helping better distribute the world's resources.  I love cooking and hosting because those are the simple joys that everyone in the world should have a right to.  I crave knowledge because it is part of the path to solutions.  Which leads to my New Year's Resolution: I want to read as much material as possible about the reasons for poverty, the history behind failed and failing governments, and the ideas on how to effect real change.

My next post will be my reading list for January and February.  I wish I could read more, but time does not permit right now.

Although I have enjoyed making this post about Haiti into a post about Me, I want to appeal to my few readers to give to Haiti.  International relations are complicated.  That goes without saying.  Money does go to pay overhead costs; that's necessary and not always evil.  Sometimes money falls into the wrong hands, and that is unfortunate.  However, Haiti immediately needs help.  Find a well-vetted organization.  A donation to the Red Cross, for example, will absolutely go to the recovery effort.

I'll leave it at that.  The world is a bit shocked, I think, at the catastrophe that has befallen the Haitians, but we cannot possibly understand, unless we have been through something similar, what the devastation actually feels like on site.

Holiday Morning Stuffed French Toast

I know it's quite late to be posting holiday recipes.  A really easy one on top of that.  And without pictures, to top it off!
However, this is an easier-than-pie recipe that I think it great to make the night before for any morning, and winter ones especially.  I don't have a true step-by-step for this - it doesn't need one and will depend on how large a crockpot you have.  You can have fun with it.

You'll need:

  • About a loaf of bread.  Doesn't have to be stale.  Doesn't need to be a certain kind.  I actually usually make cucumber sandwiches for Christmas Eve and use the scraps from that.  If you are making a lot, and have a large crockpot, of course you could need more.
  • A fruit that cooks up nice and soft.  Bananas are a sure bet.  
  • Optional: Cream Cheese.  If you're watching the fat intake you can skip this, but it does add a really nice flavor.  Whipped cream cheese is easiest.
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla
  • Sugar or substitute (I am about to listen to The Hazards of Sugar (and then look for some rebuttal) so I might be saying agave later...
  • Optional: a cooking friendly nut of your choice.  Walnuts work well, if broken up.
For optional syrup:
  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part water
  • 1 small orange for every cup of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Make the bottom of your crockpot unsticky with butter and flour or your choice of other methods.  Now, all you have to do is put a layer of bread, followed by a layer of fruit (which has been brushed with cream cheese if you want that) and the optional nuts, and repeat until your crock pot is full.  The top layer should be bread.

In a bowl beat enough eggs and milk together to generously soak the mixture.  I think 1 egg to every cup and a half of milk is a decent ratio.  You can also cut that ratio down and use some whole eggs and some egg white only.  I wouldn't use less than one egg to every 2 cups of milk.  Also, depending on how sweet you want it, add about a tablespoon of sugar for every cup and a half of mixture, and a splash of vanilla.  (I told you there is no real step-by-step to this!)

Pour the egg mixture over the layers, making sure it's drenched.  You don't want it overflowing, but you want to be sure it is thoroughly drenched.  Some might advise to pour the mixture over each layer as you put them in.  I've never found a real difference when using enough mixture.

When you've done that, cover with lid.  If it's 4am Christmas day before you start making this and you want it for Christmas morning, go ahead.  Cook it on high.  Otherwise, turn it on low and take a long winter's nap of at least 6 hours.

In the morning, you can make an easy and tasty simple syrup by heating and stirring 1 part water to 1 cup sugar.  Throw in a cinnamon stick while heating.  After sugar has dissolved, add some freshly-squeezed orange juice.


Back from Hiatus

As I told a friend recently, I don't know if I've ever been busy until recently.  The holidays had everyone rushing around as usual, but I've also taken a real interest in trying to keep our home in order despite working longer hours.  Add to that a slightly busier than usual social calendar, and you've got poor little Cardamom Tango feeling neglected in her little corner of the web.

This weekend has started in a wonderful way -- a celebration of The Exotic Foreigner's birthday.  We went snow tubing and it was such a simple and completely happy day of fun (during moments I wasn't thinking about the very real possibility of breaking my neck), that I simply must recommend it.  Some may prefer skiing, and I respect you for that.  But being that I normally fall immediately upon exit from the chairlift, I'll take an easy day of tubing, hands down.

Expect a post tomorrow.