Living With a Conservative

This is my house. (Although it's a bit snowier outside it right now.)

This is my house where I live with a conservative. Or rather a Conservative. He gets a capital "C" because he's very Conservative.

I am not.

So, in addition to the challenges of living with a significant other for the first time (he thinks I'm too anal, I think he needs to do more to help out), I have to deal with all of the challenges that come when a hippie (I'm not really, but in his world I am) cohabitates with the last guy on earth who actually thinks W. is doing a good job.

Even though we've technically lived here since December, we're only just living together for real because traveling for me and a Bar review course for him have kept us in different places for most of the last couple of months. But now the Bar is out of the way, which means it's real.

As frustrating as I know this is going to get at times, I think living with a capital "C" conservative will be good for me if for no other reason that it forces me to craft just the right arguments and justifications for why I'm doing certain things.

For instance, he questions ... oh ... basically everything I do in an attempt to conserve energy and water around the house. His showers aren't hot enough because I turned the hot water heater down to save energy. What the heck am I doing putting a milk jug with marbles in the toilet tank? Why is it always so dark in the house? Do I really have to reuse plastic baggies and tea bags—aren't they cheap?

All the while, I'm coming up behind him at the sink when he's shaving to shut off the water he left running. And I'm digging the cans he threw in the garbage out and placing them in the recycling bin. Basically, I'm doing everything I can to drive him absolutely crazy. Unintentionally, of course.

I know a lot of what I say falls on deaf ears. But, slowly and surely, I think I may be getting through to him—on some things anyway. He'll never give up wanting his showers hotter. But he actually remembers to throw stuff in the recycling more often than not now. And the other day, when we heard a woman on NPR ranting about how she thinks CFLs are inconvenient because the light takes a few seconds to come on full force, I expected him to agree with her. But you know what? He said she was stupid. Really! He couldn't understand why it was a big deal, because obviously CFLs make sense since they last so much longer (something, of course, he learned from me as I've been swapping our burned-out bulbs with CFLs).

It was a most glorious moment in my life.

He might never completely grow accustomed to my ways, nor do I expect him to come around to my way of thinking on anything. But that's OK. I'll let him keep the shrine to George W. on his bookshelf in the basement if he'll indulge me and my conservation-minded ways.

And I'll savor every small victory I get—like when he actually uses the organic ketchup without complaining it was a waste of money.


... To Buy a New Car (Part II)

The quest for a new car is going rather slowly. I wish it wasn't going at all. I'd be happy to cruise around in the Space Turtle for a couple more years, but its increasing proclivity for causing problems means it's time to say goodbye before I've sunk a new car's worth of repairs into it.

Last weekend, I went to the local car dealer where I'm going to buy my new vehicle to see what he had for me. He was, of course, suggesting that a new vehicle is the way to go. (That's what car dealers do, isn't it?)

This has been one of my dilemmas—should I buy new or used (like the sweet '57 Chevrolet Station Wagon shown here—courtesy of Roadsidepictures)?

If I bought the new Dodge Caliber I test-drove at the car delearship (I won't—too noisy—but we'll pretend here), I'd get a brand-new vehicle (obviously) with zero percent APR for the first year, a full 20-year warranty (or something like that), and that distinctive new-car smell (which is actually pretty toxic, folks—learn why from Treehugger). I also, of course, get a much higher price tag.

With a used vehicle like the 2007 Toyota Camry I also test-drove, I may not get the new-car smell (fine by me) or the long warranty, but I'm likely going to pay less. And, at the moment, minimizing the damage this vehicle purchase does to my budget is vital.

Another dilemma that I'm facing is that I would really like to buy a hybrid vehicle. In my ideal world, I'd be driving a Prius or the hybrid version of a Honda Civic. But in reality, I probably won't. At least not with this vehicle. Hybrids are still exceptionally pricey—even used ones. Much too pricey for my minuscule budget.

Plus, now that I work remotely from home, I rarely drive except once a week to yoga and around town for errands every couple of days. So at this point, breaking my budget to buy a hybrid doesn't make a lot of sense. Next time I buy a car? It will most certainly be a hybrid. Or run on used french-fry oil (Maggie of Green Couple has a greasecar—why can't I?). Or be electric. We'll see.

I was reading this AllBusiness.com article, Should You Buy a New or Used Car?, and I was intrigued by the fact that one of the factors it listed for choosing between the two is whether you see a car as a status symbol. It says: "For some people a car is a sign of stature, while for others it is simply a means for getting around."

How true! For me, it's all about getting around. That's why I'm looking for a reliable, safe car that's not too expensive, gets good gas mileage, and has good resale value. I don't give a crap about what it looks like (remember, I drive a Space Turtle?). My honey, on the other hand, shoots down most of the cars I think I'd like to get because they're either ugly or too common. He, of course, falls in the stature category and wants to buy a Lexus as soon as he can afford one. I'd rather get a used Toyota Corolla for tooling around town when necessary, and ride my bike more than drive anyway.

Now I just have to convince the car dealer I don't need a brand-new Dodge Caliber—even though the cooled glove box compartment for chilling beverages and heated seats are pretty damn cool.


... Eggplant Ratatouille with Kale and Beans

One of the things I’m fond of trying, particularly now that I have someone to cook for, are new recipes. I’m an amateur at this sort of thing, so you never really know what’s going to happen. But it’s fun nonetheless.

Often I stumble upon keepers, although occasionally I make a real dud. I’ll try to avoid posting the duds here (unless they’re disastrous to epic proportions, then you might want to hear about them, yes?), but will post some of my faves … With pictures when you’re lucky, although if there's one thing I can tell you with certainty it's that point-and-shoot food photography is never as appetizing as the stuff you see in magazines.

So here’s the first one: Eggplant Ratatouille with Kale and Beans.

It’s one I made when I was on my short-lived vegetarian kick. But although I’m not going all-out veggie until the summer, I still love a good veggie-loaded dish.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure where this one came from to give proper credit. I tend to tear stuff out of magazines and this page doesn’t appear to have a folio, but by the look of things it’s from one of those natural-health magazines you see for free at the grocery store.

First, the recipe:

1 medium eggplant, sliced ¼-inch thick
Coarse kosher salt

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 medium yellow bell peppers, cored and sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
2 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 15-ounch can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

2 Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices
6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 cup grated Asiago cheese

1. Sprinkle both side of eggplant slices liberally with coarse salt. Place on a paper towel-covered plate and cover with another paper towel to squeeze water out. Let sit while chopping other vegetables, then rinse salt off.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2½-quart casserole with cooking spray. Layer half of the eggplant, onions, peppers, and zucchini in casserole dish. Cover with all of the kale and beans, and spread with half of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with half of the garlic and half of the dried herbs. Repeat layering process (omitting kale and bans). Press down gentle and drizzle with olive oil. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 1 hour or until vegetables are very tender.

3. Remove foil. Combine parsley and cheese in a small bowl and sprinkle over vegetables. Return to oven and cook for 5 minutes longer, until cheese is melted. Serve hot. Make 6¬–8 servings.

Extra cheese is a must. In addition to the grated Asiago mentioned in the recipe, I added a half-cup (plus—it’s always plus with cheese for me) of grated mozzarella on top. Delicious.

Next time I make this, I’ll definitely add another can of great Northern beans so it’s heartier. But overall, this dish gets two thumbs up from me. I can’t wait to see how flavorful it will be with fresh farmer’s market produce too!

Oh, and speaking of this dish, the leftovers are still in my fridge. I probably should take care of that, unless I want to write about trying the fine art of growing mold.

The problem with these recipes is the boy won’t touch them and I should’ve halved this one—it was way too much for me to eat before I got sick of it and moved on to new leftovers. I need to work on that. I hate being wasteful.


... Voting Democrat in a Room Full of Republicans

Admittedly, it's not the first time.

I was lucky enough to turn 18 less than a month before the 2000 presidential election. So, after months of mulling over who I'd vote for and arguing my stance in the student newspaper (which, by the way, I don't think anyone but my parents—both teachers—read), I trudged through knee-deep snow and blowing winds to the Civic Center in my population 409 Wyoming hometown. (Seriously. This is not your grandfather's walking-uphill-both-ways tale. It was November in Wyoming, people. What do you expect?)

When I entered the Civic Center it was like a ghost town, in part because of the weather. But it probably also had a lot to do with the fact that everyone but me had already voted—for George W. Bush, no doubt. We used to joke that the only three Democrats in town were my Dad, the crazy librarian down the street, and me (Mom was registered Independent, I think). Needless to say, I was aware of the fact when I slid behind the curtain to vote that first time.

The second time I voted for president was in Des Moines while I was attending Drake University. There, I'm pretty sure, I was surrounded by Democrats. Or at least the ratio was much improved.

I was sorry to miss the caucuses in Iowa this year—I moved too soon! They would've been much more exciting than my foray to the church down the street where I felt, once again, quite lonely. I walked in on Super Tuesday and the cute old ladies at my precinct table asked what ballot I wanted. "Democrat," I said confidently. At least I think it was. I was the youngest one in there by a good 35 years. And I just knew all those eyes were judging me.

Not really. I made that up. The women were quiet and proper, handed me my ballot, and didn't say another word. Voting took all of 30 seconds, because here's another thing about voting in a primary in a room full of Republicans: you don't have much to vote on. I filled in the circle for my presidential candidate and my convention reps (none of whom I knew). And I filled in the circle for Dick Durbin. No one else to vote for ... no other Democrats running against him. Or for any other position on the ballot for the county or the city.

So, about two minutes after walking in, I walked out into the rain with my "I voted" sticker. It's really quite easy, just as I'm sure it's pretty easy to vote Republican in a roomful of Democrats. End of story.

At least until you start wondering. If I'm one of oh, five Democrats in town (it's a step up from the three in Hulett!), why even vote? Does my vote even matter? And this, my friends, is where things get tricky. And this is what I'm going to try to figure out in time for November, for the big election. If there's no way in hell a Democrat is going to get elected here, why bother? (I, of course, will vote. But maybe you're somewhere out there wondering the same thing. So I'm going to try to convince you your vote matters. You should listen to me. Really. I'm the daughter of a civics and government teacher.)

Needless to say, stay tuned.


... To Buy a New Car (Part 1)

I want to begin by saying that I don't want to buy a new car. If I had my way, I'd drive my Space Turtle (aka my 2001 Pontiac Aztek) until it croaked. Yes, it looks an awful lot like an SUV. But it actually gets better mileage than many a friends' car, takes up less space than most SUVs, and does one heckuva job of hauling items when it's time to move.

But recently developments (where to begin? no air conditioning because the condenser needs replaced; $550 down the tubes for work on the brakes and computer system; a disastrous week that involved epic battles to remove the key, an eventual dead battery, an ignition replacement, and some wiring work) have led me to believe it's time to say goodbye to the Space Turtle. Now.

And so I embark on my first challenge: to figure out what car I'm going to buy to replace the precious Aztek. I didn't expect to have to part with him so soon, so now I'm at a loss. Do I buy a hybrid? I'd love to. But are they too expensive for my meager budget? Probably.

That's why it's time to do the math, research the options, and figure out what car I'm meant to buy.

Ready to come along on a test drive?

... Becoming a Vegetarian (But Quits Before She Starts)

The day I created this blog (ie yesterday), I knew immediately what I wanted to try first. Becoming a vegetarian. I spent all day mulling over what I'd cook, how I'd stick to it, how long I'd say no to meat. Considering that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, my carnivorous ways seemed like the perfect thing to give up for Lent.

Then today I changed my mind.

It's not that I don't want to try becoming a vegetarian (albeit for a brief period of time). I do. It's not that I won't try it. I will. It's just that I've talked myself out of trying it right now.

Here's why:

  1. To give up meat for Lent, I'd have to go without eating it for six weeks. Six weeks is a long time to try something that involves a fairly drastic changes in my lifestyle. And I have enough relatively drastic changes I'm still getting used to at the moment, thanks.

  2. I've decided becoming a vegetarian briefly would be much easier in the summer, when I tend to get utterly caught up in the selection of produce at the farmer's market anyway. Why not capitalize on all those fresh fruits and veggies that tempt me all summer long, rather than digging through bruised and soggy produce that's been shipped from California?

  3. The Boy and I moved into our first house at the end of November. He has only lived here for a few weekends since, but he'll be able to live here full-time starting next week. Do I really want to say, "Welcome home! Now eat tofu with me!" when we've never even officially lived together before and he's about as carnivorous as they come? Perhaps not the best way to start things off.
And so my first "try" fails before it even gets off the ground. But don't worry. There are plenty more ideas where that one came from. And as soon as the farmer's market starts up here, I'll revisit my interest in trying out the vegetarian lifestyle. So stay tuned.


... A New Blog

First, an introduction.

I am a lover of life. But in the savoring-sweet-seconds-quietly, soaking-it-all-up-in-contemplative-awe sort of way rather than with the reckless abandon of an adventurer bent on taking big, long gulps from every moment. Which is exactly why it's time to dive head-on into some of the experiences I wonder about, read about, dream about.

And so here you have it. My motivation, the base camp from which I'll set out on a simple (in theory) yet decidedly complicated (in practice) mission: To explore the world and the myriad experiences—big and small—that are calling my name.

This doesn't mean I'll spend my days tackling the next big mountain and writing about it (well, perhaps figuratively; probably not literally, as bad backs and K2 generally don't mix). Rather, it's about jumping head-first into those activities, those ideas, those moments that before were only what-ifs and maybe-somedays.

Vague, I know. But explaining any more than this will limit what I can create here, what I can see and do, who I can be. So bear with me because I'll leave it at that—at least until I try my first experience, and my second, and my third, and maybe then you'll be hooked and willing to stick around for more.