Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ten Things I Learned in Haiti (and some photos)

My favorite Haiti photo- looking out toward Fort Gary (at the top of the tall mountain)
1. Sometimes the poorest people are the most generous.

2. You can diagnose and treat patients without labs or radiology, but you have to use your hands, your brain, and your ears to do it.

3. There is a whole community of incredible people who give up their lives in America to live in some of the poorest parts of the world, simply because their faith has called them to do so.

4. Haiti is the ugliest and most beautiful place I have ever seen.

5. You should let a girl push the giant cart of untaxed medications through airport security, because the guy who looks like he might have some money is sure to get stopped.

6. Ten people can share an 800 square foot living space, and they will either become very close or ready to kill each other. Or probably both.

7. If the goat keeps you awake all night, he tastes extra delicious when you have him for lunch the next day.

8. Roosters don't just crow at dawn.

9. By the end of the trip I was ready to eat the rooster too.

10. If you go to Haiti, the greatest danger is that you will fall in love and want to come back again and again.

Wade, George, and Scott ready to hit the road

A Port au Prince drive through
Sunrise in Sankeyum
Our waiting area at 6am
Setting up for surgery on the dining room table

There are lots more photos posted on my Flickr account if you want to take a look.

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try stepping out of your comfort zone now and then- you'll be amazed at what can happen!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gretchen Rubin and the Ten Minute Tidy Up

Tomas Carrillo- Flickr
My desk does not look like this
Have you checked out The Happiness Project yet? A few years ago, Gretchen Rubin decided to spend a year working on being happier. The book that resulted is a very worthwhile read and a New York Times best seller. The blog of the same name offers tons of tips for leading a happier, less stressed, more fulfilling life.

One of the recurrent themes in The Happiness Project (book and blog) is "outer order contributes to inner calm." If you look around the blog, there are tons of posts about getting neat and organized. This one is my favorite- it gives some great ideas for getting rid of clutter in small steps. It goes right along with my belief that doing one little thing is much less intimidating than trying to take on a huge project. And look, Gretchen and I agree that making your bed is totally worth the effort!

A suggestion presented often on The Happiness Project is to observe a five minute "evening tidy up" before going to bed each night. You push the chairs under the table, pick things up off the floor, stack up books, etc. It's supposed to create a soothing bedtime ritual and make your mornings a little better.

I don't practice the evening tidy up per se, but I do like to make sure that the kitchen is clean- dishes in dishwasher, counter tops clean, trash taken out- just before I go to bed. On the occasions that I skip it and leave a pan soaking in the sink overnight, its just a big bummer to have to deal with in the morning.

What I have been doing is a ten minute tidy up in the mornings when I'm off. The problem with having some weekdays off is that I'm at home when everyone else is at work. It's great to get errands done when things are less crowded, but sometimes I get myself in trouble with so much unstructured time. Given the choice between going out to pick up the dry cleaning and staying in my pj's to watch Office reruns on my laptop...well, let's just say that the dry cleaning hangs out at the store a little longer than it should.

When I find myself feeling overwhelmed with the chores that need to get done, I am making myself do a ten-minute tidy up. Five minutes is just enough time to get started, but I can accomplish a lot in ten minutes. I set the timer on my phone and work until it goes off. It seems like once I get though the ten minutes and feel like I have accomplished something (like locating my dining room table under the junk mail), I'm more motivated to get my day started.

I also agree with Gretchen's statement that tidy areas tend to stay tidy, and messy areas tend to get messier.  I notice that when I make my bed regularly, my whole bedroom stays neater, but when I slack off things tend to collect on the dressers and floor. I'm hoping that the ten minute tidy up will help my problem areas (dining room table, extra bedroom) get cleaner and stay cleaner.

Do you have any quick clean up rituals that keep your house (and you) from falling apart?

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try a little tidy up- see if you like it too.

Cooking from the CSA Bag

Swallowtail Farm, Alachua, Florida
Okay, first of all I have to give some props to my friend Beth. You remember Beth, right? About 30% of the things I'm doing to live better come from Beth to start with, only she doesn't have a blog, so you don't hear it from her. I am especially inspired by her quest to eat fresher, cleaner, locally grown produce and meats.

Several months ago Beth mentioned that she was splitting a CSA (community supported agriculture) share with some friends. I hadn't really heard about CSA before, but apparently they're everywhere. What happens is that you pay a certain amount up front to the farm, and then every week you get a big bag of in season produce. You get to support a small scale farm and eat veggies that were in the ground a few days ago. Win-win!

I saw an add for the Swallowtail Farm CSA at the our new co-op. I found someone to share with (thanks Joanna!), signed up, and picked up my first bag of veggies, herbs, and flowers on Sunday! I got arugula, sweet potato greens, radishes, a tiny eggplant, some jalapenos, and a gigantic sweet potato. I also got some basil, Greek oregano, a sprig of rosemary, and a small bunch of flowers. I bought an organic tomato and some garlic at the store, and a dozen local, free range eggs from a vendor.

Sunday I made a salad with the arugula, sliced radishes, half of the tomato and a carrot. I mixed up some of Alton Brown's delicious honey mustard to dress the salad (just honey, Dijon mustard, and rice vinegar).

Last night I wanted something simple after a long work day, so I made some whole wheat pasta, sauteed the rest of the tomato in a little olive oil, and mixed it with the pasta, some Italian seasoned salt, and chopped fresh basil.

Sweet potato greens (which I had not tried before)are similar to collard greens in texture, but with a sweeter, more delicate flavor. I am following Marc Bittman's recipe- I steamed them for ten minutes, shocked them, and tonight I plan to saute them in butter and serve them with a chopped hard boiled egg on top.  I might also try to cook the eggplant with the garlic and oregano.

I tried to eat the rest of the radishes with some butter and sea salt,as suggested on but I just really don't like them. Also, as a cautionary tale, they dry out pretty quickly if you stick them loose in the fridge.

Friday I'm leaving for Haiti. I think the sweet potato will be fine in the fridge until I come back. I would normally use the jalapenos in some beans and rice, but I think that we are eating beans and rice pretty much every day in Haiti, so that's probably not a good idea. Anyone have any suggestions for the jalapenos?

I am hoping that the CSA bag will help me eat more vegetables and also encourage me to try new things (like sweet potato greens). Has anyone else done a CSA share before? What was your favorite part?

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and if someone offers you some sweet potato greens, say yes!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

COW: World Bicycle Relief

Today, Robin Politowicz is doing the Florida Ironman in Panama Beach. An Ironman is a pretty impressive undertaking on its own, but what's even better is that she's doing it to raise money and awareness for an awesome organization (and this week's COW): World Bicycle Relief. Robin's fundraising page is here.

World Bicycle Relief is providing aid to Africa by giving bicycles to students, health care workers, and other individuals who need to travel long distances with heavy loads.

I did some checking on this organization, and I was really impressed with what I found. The bicycles are specially constructed to withstand use over rough terrain. Individuals receiving bicycles get some training in basic bike maintenance and a small repair kit and pump. Even the most rugged bicycles need occasional maintenance, so World Bicycle Relief trains one local mechanic for every 90 bikes distributed. This creates an opportunity for a small business.  The bikes are distributed to local leaders, who give out bikes in the community based on need. Seventy percent of the bicycles are given to girls so that they can travel to school quickly and safely.

This program meets my two criteria for an excellent aid organization: the program is designed to be sustainable (well built bikes, local mechanics) and solicits input from local people (in distribution of the bikes).

In 2010, World Bicycle Relief ranked 12th on Barron's List of Effective Charities. This NY Times article explains the impact a bicycle can have on a person's life in Africa.  This article discusses the construction of the bikes and the importance of durability.

I love my bike: it's an alternative source of transportation and a leisure and fitness item. In Africa, a bike can mean getting to school on time, getting health care workers to hard to reach places, and getting goods to places where they could not be carried on foot.

If you are as impressed and inspired by this organization and I am, please consider supporting Robin with a donation. She is probably in the middle of a 112 mile bike ride right now!

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and thanks to Robin for raising awareness of this great organization!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Costume Recap

Halloween only comes once a year, so please indulge me for one more post, and then we can move on to something else! I was feeling a little self-centered posting a bunch of photos of myself the other day, so I thought I would give you a recap of some of my favorite costumes from this year:

Susie, Kirsten, Carissa, and Beth: The World 'O Hurt Roller Derby Girls with Ref Steve. Susie gets extra credit for owning this photo.

Richie uses Halloween as an excuse to wear a dress and rock some high heels. He usually has enormous breasts, but this year they didn't fit into the costume. He has a lion, scarecrow straw in his hair, and some oil for the Tin Man.

I am very sad to admit that this Snooki might be better than mine. Also she has Pauly D as an accessory

That dude was wearing blue body paint and a loincloth. A+ for commitment. I intended to get a full shot of him but he started talking about my porcelain features and I got a little distracted.

Our host Michael as The Joker and Louis as Batman

Zoe and Aaron as Holmes and Watson. I love the couples costumes! I hope they don't mind that I stole this off of Facebook.

Shu-Ping as Karl Lagerfield. Also stolen from Facebook

This one gets the award for best family costume: Scott wanted to be He-Man, so Sarah played along and dressed as the Sorceress of the Castle Greyscull

Thanks for sticking around! So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and get ready because Christmas season is starting today!

PS: If I "borrowed" your image from Facebook and you want me to take it down, let me know.

That's What Friends Are For!

Here's what I found while looking through some photos from previous Halloweens:

Melissa and Beth, 2008

(Missed the 2009 party- stupid work weekends!)

Melissa and Beth 2010

Melissa and Beth 2011

I'm pretty sure there's a 2007 photo somewhere too, but it might be an actual snapshot. Beth, if you have it send it my way!

I LOVE HALLOWEEN! A big thanks to Michael, our annual Giant Halloween Extravaganza Host.

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