Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm driving to Gainesville, FL tomorrow morning! For a wedding! I love road trips, but the last few I've gone on I haven't been able to shake a nagging guilty feeling. So much gas and CO2 just so I can see the Country Music Hall of Fame or something. Gainesville is nearly 700 miles away, we'll be driving clean across three states. But I wouldn't deny anyone the pleasure of a road trip with friends (with a stop at South of the Border!). Here's how I'll be driving with a clear conscience:
-Follow these EPA tips for maintaining good fuel economy
-Travel vegan: A diet without animal products is significantly less stressful on the environment. I'm packing the car with pretzels, carrot sticks, cucumbers, grapes, almonds, and celery with peanut butter!
-We're leaving early in the morning to take advantage of the cool morning weather. If it gets too hot in the car, or if we hit bad traffic, we can stop and relax or explore. Idling wastes a lot of gas, as does the air conditioner. If you're going over 45 mph, however, it is more gas efficient to roll the windows up and use the AC instead.

How do you save gas when travelling? How do you save money? Here are some reviews of the hotel I booked us in for $50 a night:
"I hate it when hair is able to be seen in bathrooms, on the floor, and in baths. It is nauseating."
"This was my most disappointed experience with hotel."
But there's a rooftop pool! Here's too many happy and safe travels this summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Go West, Young Girl

I finally finished my application for Brethren Volunteer Service, an organization that will (hopefully) place me in a year-long position in an as-yet-to-be-determined location to do God's as-yet-to-be-determined work. If you're one of the unfortunate many who has listened to me yammer on about my orientation in Harrisonburg this July, get excited because I'm REALLY applying for orientation in Myrtle Point, Oregon! With one week in Portland, Oregon! In September! The orientation will focus on sustainability, peacemaking, and environmentalism.

After that, who knows. On the application, I was asked to list my top three choices for assignment in order of preference. I chose:
1. The La Puenta Home in Alamosa, Colorado
2. Innisfree Village in Crozet, Virginia
3. Catholic Worker House in San Antonio, Texas
I won't know which assignment I get until during my orientation. It might not even be one of the three I chose. All I know is that it will be somewhere in the U.S.

I'm a little disappointed I won't be shipping out sooner, but I'm happy I'll have a little more time to relax and hopefully visit some friends. ALSO my family and friends gave me a the very wonderful graduation gift of a new computer! It is much more reliable than my old one and it has a webcam so I can Skype with everyone while I'm away! I will do my best to deserve such a generous gift by blogging much more often. I have a few ideas in mind:

-Affordable grocery shopping in good conscience: Is there a way to buy local, environmentally friendly, cruelty free food and spend less?
-Hollywood and the Middle East. This summer's blockbusters look as ignorant, misguided, and harmful as ever.
-Traveling cheaply and responsibly.

If you have any tips or ideas on any of those subjects, let me know! And expect to hear more from me soon!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Perhaps you've seen Bristol Palin's not-so-thinly-veiled classist message on teen pregnancy, wherein she thanks her lucky stars that she was born privileged. If not:

Bristol is working with the Candie's Foundation, an off-shoot of the Kohl's-distributed clothing company that also brought you this advertisement:And, more recently, oversexed images of other Candie's Foundation spokeswomen like (teenager) Hayden Panettiere and (classy ladies) Fergie and Britney Spears, awash in porno-pink, glitter, and usually toying with the straw of a whipped-cream and sprinkle topped milkshake.

The Candie's Foundation website directs parents to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, whose website was very excited to announce:
A Statement from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
about a New Study Published in the American Medical Association’s
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Jemmott JB, Jemmott LS and Fong GT: Efficacy of a Theory-Based
Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months

Some highlights:
"Americans have long supported abstinence as a message—for example, surveys consistently show that adults and teens think that young people should be encouraged to delay sexual activity. With the publication of this new study, we now have a well done, strong evaluation showing that a particular abstinence-only program can help young teens do just that."
"It is unreasonable to expect any single intervention, curriculum, or program to solve the teen pregnancy problem. True and lasting progress requires not only good programs in schools and communities, but also supportive social norms and values, informed and active parents, good health services, a positive media culture, and more. Given the recent rise in teen pregnancy announced last week—the first since 1990—efforts in all these areas need to be more creative, more focused, and more intense."

Well, NCPTUP, where are America's 12-year-olds (the "young teens" the study focused on) supposed to find this positive media culture? Surely your sister site, which The Candie's Foundation website directs teens to, has some answers., an insanely obnoxious Degrassi ad reiterates "Fact: 6 in 10 teens who have had sex by age 18 say they wish they'd waited longer" at any given opportunity. Their "Pregnancy and the Media" page reminds you not to miss any episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a show that's all about the real-life consequences of getting pregnant in an upper-middle-class family. I found this to be a really excellent breakdown of that particular show's destructive, delusional message. The contributor makes several good points, including:
"Not only are Amy and her friends naïve about pregnancy, they know nothing about sex. Amy mentions multiple times that she doesn’t know if she and Ricky even had real sex. After all, good girls shouldn’t know about sex. They certainly shouldn’t think about it…unless they want to end up friendless and clingy like Adrian. The only solution Amy and her friends can agree on is having Amy marry her boyfriend, Ben. ABC Family tells their viewers that when a girl is in a pickle, she must trick a guy into liking her and he will take care of the rest."

Which brings us back to Bristol. Remember the magical union of Bristol and Levi? How that restored order and sense into their lives? How it put them right in the eyes of God and America? Whatever the message the Candie's Foundation and Friends are trying to sell, Bristol herself has waffled back and forth between promoting abstinence-0nly and comprehensive sex education. The one message we're getting loud and clear from her ad is that money makes things okay. With money, having a child transforms you into a classy, pearl-wearing glamor mom in a luxuriously-furnished apartment. Without money, having a child will ruin your life. It will make you "not pretty." It will make you ugly.

The one thing everyone can agree on, from the Neutrogena-commercial universe of Secret Life to the former-clog-makers-turned-authority-on-sex-education is that abortion is not an option. Sex equals babies and babies equal living hell. Just read the small print on this ad:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dollar Menunaires

Mandy Patinkin gives you some of McDonald’s ideas on responsible, frugal living. Or here are some of mine:

According to, “Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.”

“This year’s G8 summit pledged $20 billion over three years to poor farmers and consumers. This sounds generous but it equates to just $2 per hungry person per year.”

You can feed yourself and your family and friends for about a dollar and create less waste, except for the really satisfying poop you’ll have after this high-fiber meal.

The above Oxfam article says that about half of the world’s food supply goes to waste. Dried beans, covered and stored at room temperature, keep indefinitely and canned tomatoes take 18 months to go bad, so you can buy them without worrying about wasting food and make chili when you have some onions and vegetables that are about to turn. There are lots of things you can add to chili if you have it on hand. I’ve seen recipes that include zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers of other colors, even broccoli. Ground beef, ground turkey, and of course mock ground beef go great in this chili. If using meat, sauté just before adding diced vegetables and omit olive oil. Fake meat can be sautéed with the vegetables and olive oil. Firm tofu, drained, frozen, thawed, and crumbled, has a nice texture for chili, but the color is less “authentic.” You can also use canned beans, of course, just skip all of the soaking and boiling steps. These recipes are all about using what you have and being creative. My friend Emily puts pineapple in her cornbread, which sounds delicious.

This recipe serves 6 hungry people for about $1.02 each. I calculated the prices using my own grocery receipts and websites that list prices of their food, like, so it's a mix of store-brand and brand-name products and very low or very inflated prices. The most expensive thing in this chili is the can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with chilies, but I don't like buying chilies or cutting them up by hand 'cause then I'd probably forget about it and touch my eyeball or something. Buying store-brand diced tomatoes would shave about ten cents off each serving.

Basic Vegetarian Chili:

2/3 cup dry black beans $0.32

2/3 cup dry kidney beans $0.32

1 tbsp olive oil $0.15

1 green pepper, diced $0.50

½ large onion or one medium onion, diced $0.68

3 cloves garlic, minced $0.25

1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with chilies $1.09

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes $0.59

Half of a 16 oz can corn kernels $0.39

½ tsp powdered cumin

½ tsp chili powder

Salt and pepper

Corn Bread:

2/3 cup corn meal $0.12

1 ¼ cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour $0.34

¼ cup sugar $0.10

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 egg $0.16

1cup milk $0.48

¼ cup vegetable oil $0.25

The other half of the can of corn $0.39

Rinse the beans in a colander and put them in a pot with enough cold water to cover them with a good inch or two. Soak for at least 6 hours. If you don’t remember to do this first thing in the morning, bring the beans to a boil then remove from heat and soak for 2 hours.

Bring soaked beans back to a boil, then simmer on low for 1 hour. In the meantime, mince the garlic and dice the onions and green pepper.

When the beans are almost done, heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy sauce pan or pot. Sauté the garlic, onions, and green pepper until softened, but not cooked through.

Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Add the can of chopped tomatoes with liquid, the can of crushed tomatoes, and half of the can of corn and stir. Add the cumin and chili powder and generous salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the chili simmers, make the cornbread. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend together the dry ingredients, then add the rest and mix until moist. Let the batter sit for a minute or two and then pour into a greased pan. I like to cook mine in a cast iron skillet and cut it into wedges when it’s done, but corn muffins are sometimes easier to eat and serve.

Add more cumin, chili powder, salt, or pepper to the chili if desired. The longer it simmers, the better it is. And it's even better the next day, so it makes great leftovers.

This chili is delicious and filling the way it is, but, if you have it, it goes great over brown rice and topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and/or a squeeze of lime juice. When my mom made chili, I used to eat it with crumbled up Ritz crackers and shredded cheddar on top.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Bless Your Little Heart Manifesto

Barring any terrible catastrophe, I'll be graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in May with a degree in English and minors in Writing and Religious Studies. I'm starting this blog because I have a feeling we're going to need a lot more than our degrees to get by.

This blog is here:

-To examine and explore the role food, hospitality, and domesticity play in a healthy lifestyle and community
-To examine how our lifestyles effect the global community
-To provide recipes and ideas for maintaining a consistent diet of healthy and inexpensive food
-To challenge myself and my friends to eliminating wastefulness, overconsumption, and gluttony from our lives while preserving the important cultural, social, and spiritual role food should play
-To provide a forum for advice, discussion, and exchange in a threatening economy
-To provide a forum for discussion and exploration of issues of social justice, discrimination, and inequality
-To celebrate holidays, the seasons, birthdays, and friends inexpensively and enthusiastically