Requisite Appliance: Printer

Did you know that Germans use more paper per capita than any other country?

When we arrived on a one-way ticket with 4 large suitcases and 4 backpacks, we rented a flat for the week while we set up the house rental. One of those -each system has it’s +/- is that tenants rights are quite strong and rentals of any size come completely unfurnished. You’re ‘lucky’ (or unlucky?) if the place comes with kitchen cabinets. Bare wires dropping from every ceiling and wall greeted us that first day.

So what did we buy when we showed up at the Media Markt with a wad of cash (cause Germany is into Bargeld and our bank cards took forever to show up)? A washer, dryer, refrigerator, and a printer to go with the wireless router.

(side note: I’m two years in trying to learn German. It’s not going super well, I’m somewhere around an A2.1 with terrible grammar and negligable conversational skills. Yet all of a sudden, certain nouns written in English look weird if they’re not capitalized. I am loathe to bring up a certain US president, but those tweets make me wonder what language keyboards he has installed on his iPhone.)

Back to the Printer. It’s been two years of filing paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

“Pollution plunged his hands into another rack of expensive electronics”

— Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

The same copies of the same documents to various agencies, multiple times, to fix errors or because something changed. I managed without a computer for about two years, printing and editing anything I needed. Perfection!

Printer, where are you? – Purple-Glasses

The Big Kiddo’s at-home-school homework uses the plethora of workbooks they go through in the 2nd grade. At the beginning of each school week, his teacher emails about 6-10 additional worksheets to print out. If you don’t have a printer, she offered to drop off the documents when she exchanges the workbooks as the kids finish them. My kid has done a decent job of working through the weekly checklist at his own pace, completing work sessions along side us in the home-office. This means there’s (thank goodness!!) not a lot of outside instruction needed. On the other hand, he absolutely refuses to do any of the items listed as ‘bonus’, and frankly, it’s shaking out a bit too lazily.

So what’s a parent to do with a kid who’s first language isn’t the one taught at school, and in two short years that kid will go on to the big-scary-intense-grading-future-defining land that is High School? Here’s the handful of slightly different print-out projects that my kiddo has willingly taken to:

  • Ozobot Puzzles and coding. Farfar got him this mini robot for Christmas a few years ago. The iPad app is quite fun.
  • Girls Who Code offers new projects every Monday. Several are with pen and paper.
  • The wonderful artist Marlena Myles @mylesdesign has a link on her Instagram page for a guided history and coloring book of Dakhóta Plants and Landmaps of Mnísota. I found her via her recent work for alternatives to in-person artistic placemaking in Minnesota.
  • Kiva U‘ (from which has expanded eligibility for microfinance loans during the pandemic) has age specific activities to do at home.

This month, we’ve also reached outside the school’s Christian Religion playbook and learned a bit about Passover and Ramadan. A very full topic for another post! Prost!

An Earth Day Post About Composting

He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies on Radio Four, and thought it an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.

What he did was put the fear of God into them.

More precisely, the fear of Crowley.

— Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I know we just started getting to know each other, but you should know that I believe that one of the easiest things people and cities can do to decrease their footprint is to compost. Many people will tell you that composting at home is easy and everyone should do it. I’m here to tell you the truth. If you have a small space or no outdoor space, it can be a pain in the butt to compost at home. Sorting your waste is super easy and I’ll write another post showing you examples of what you can do. However, the composting part requires monitoring, adding your scraps, and depending on the type of composting aerating or harvesting. My dream would be that every city had an industrial composter and compost pick-up so everyone could decrease the biodegradable trash going to landfills.

So what is composting and why should you do it?

Composting is the process of taking biodegradable material, such as food scraps, garden waste, or paper products, breaking it down with the use of bacteria and organisms to produce a nutrient-rich material that can then be used as fertilizer for plants. The main reason to compost is that it takes a product that would normally go to the landfill and redirects it into a life cycle that can be used over and over. Organic material in landfills does not decompose properly and is either fossilized or generates anaerobic degradation which generates methane, an extremely effective greenhouse gas.

Food waste life cycle – adapted from Food Waste, the Lexicon of Sustainability, PBS Food;
Images of our family backyard compost bins.

Composting differences where I have lived

One of the first things I do anywhere we have lived (New York, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Denver, CO; and now Jacksonville, FL) is to figure out composting. While in graduate school in NY I started a composting program for the community. This was before growNYC had food scrap pickups in the farmer’s markets all over the city, and for me, it was a learning experience and a community-building project. We had the carpentry shop build a huge box for our worm bin, and got two insulated tumblers for composting year-round. We were run entirely by volunteers, and because of the project, some of the buildings in our neighborhood were the first in the pilot NYC program for compost pickup. Our compost was right behind a daycare vegetable garden so we were able to harvest and directly add to their patch. I dissolved the project before moving because growNYC filled in the gap.

In Pittsburgh, I got an MBA and used some of my time there to learn more about industrial composting. The city itself didn’t have compost pickup, but the university did and I would drop my bag of scraps into their bins. This was perfect since the four of us (two adults, two kids) lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with no room for a bin.

Denver had compost bins everywhere. We lived right next to the library, which had large compost bins; their only outdoor waste pickup bins that weren’t locked. We would walk over once a week and drop off our scraps. But as I met our neighbors, a lot of them also had a compost pickup bin and were happy to let others add to it.

Now in Jacksonville, I have been unable to find an easy solution for composting, so I have set up our own worm bins. I’ll write a post about how to do this later. But I dream of doing more and having an industrial composter built and running in this city. And in every city!

Earth Day

Earth Day is always a good time to think about ways we can all modify our behavior to produce less waste. For those of us priviledged enough to be able to stay home, now is a perfect time to change behavior and learn something new! There are a bazillion resources online which can be extremely overwhelming. Clearly, I’m not helping the cause by adding more content online. However, as Anne Marie Bonneau from the Zero Waste Chef says: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Join me in trying our best at reducing waste. Let us know if we can help!

Quote by Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef;
Image by @purpleglassesFLDE

A few Composting Resources:

Earth Protectors

…was the name of a more-or-less pretend group I wanted to form as a little kid. My mom started us young, I suppose. She has always been concientious of why we buy things and where those multitude of things go. I think all three of us kids were cloth diapered (twin brothers!), I recall a milk man with glass bottles, and rare clothing purchases (think a multipack of shorts in various colors from Caldor that my skinny ass wore from like 4-8th grade). Now I don’t know how much of this was practical for saving money vs. walking the talk, maybe a bit of both. My memory is fuzzy at this point, funny what one remembers and why. I doubt many other families would’ve accidentally fumigated themselves with chopped up cauliflower from a snack cooler while driving (instead of flying) across country to Colorado. That turd of a raw vegetable, memorably, was pitched off the side of the highway somewhere in the rediculously long state of Pennsylvania.

I ate it all up, though, devouring kids books on Earth Day, planting trees, thrilled to visit a recycling center on a school field trip. I wish more young kids were spotlighted at town board meetings, to push for things that they’re passionate about. To ask the tough questions of -why not?- because they haven’t had the life experience of crushing defeats or constant NIMBY threats and can imagine even simple projects, like a town compost, taking off.

There are tons of articles about the process of waste disposal, and why change occurs in that arena (the US has a -lot- of land, and waste is cheap). I’ll save my thoughts on that topic for later posts. As I’ve moved around to city after city in the Northeast US, I managed to accidentally choose places that were a bit ahead of the US curve in terms of sustainability. Yet, I always had the drive to do something a bit more, just not grand enough.

Little teeny things: while in NYC, I dragged my plastic bags home on the Metro North to bring to a CT grocery store, because NY didn’t recycle bags yet. Leave-no-trace camping. In CT, the Nature Conservancy hosted weekend retreats for developers and land owners to guide sustainable practices in land management. Invasive species mapping and removal. Cleaner diesel emissions research. In Boston, I worked with a group on how to change behaviors on a campus-scale to tweak energy useage in large buildings. Alternative energy basic research. Built a town park. Cloth diapered my babies. Minimal Leslie Knopp type stuff. With lots of trees, shrubs, and flowers planted along the way.

I’m a chemist by training, and I cringed quite a bit when the chemical reaction at hand asked for not so great organic solvents who’s vapors vent out the hood into the atmosphere. Once you start learning more, there are even MORE questions you don’t have the answers for. There are all kinds of ways to enact changes, like supporting sustainability coordinators at the town and city level. Plant a ton of trees on the barren plateaus from mountaintop removal mines dotting West Virginia. Be the squeaky wheel rather than the few who oppose a windmill. Stop waiting for the 10 year analysis or to see what the neighbors are doing. Ultimately, we all know what is helpful and what is more harmful. Be honest with yourself about purchases or actions. Be the weirdo with chopped cauliflower in your cooler.

Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s arm. ‘You know what happened?’ he hissed excitedly. ‘He was left alone! He grew up human! He’s not Evil Incarnate or Good Incarnate, he’s just … a human incarnate—” 

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I take it for granted that the underlying guidance by which I live my life is that the Earth is precious. That there -are- dire consequences to human action and inaction. Even though it’s human nature to reach for the stars, we have a responsibility to the next generation to maintain a world that has clean air and water for all living things, and maybe over our own ease and comfort. Can we prove that things have changed for the better since the 1970s, though it’s hard to beat the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra?

If this resonates with you, start with the children, listen to them when they speak, and make the big things happen in your back yard. Because why not?

Earth Day 2020 *Bee Balm, Echinacea, Magnolia
Image by @purpleglassesFLDE

Why Good Omens?

A picture of my current copy of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

“Hell wasn’t a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley’s opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.”

― Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is on of my all time favorite books. I have read it multiple times and have owned multiple copies. I keep lending the book out to friends and then have to buy another copy to re-read. The image above is the current book I own, but I also bought the kindle version last year so I could re-read on my phone while putting the kids to bed before the video came out.

I first learned about this book during my freshman year in college. I was staying in the dorms over the summer while I completed a summer research program and wanted some new books to read. So I went to the bookstore and asked the nice woman working behind the counter:

Me: I am looking for a good book to read.

Her: Okay, do you like funny books?

Me: Sure.

Her: Okay, I have the perfect book.

To note that I am always surprised when telling this story that she was able to suggest a perfect book and not laugh at my request.

If you have not had the pleasure of reading it, I highly recommend it. We will also be using some of our favorite quotes from the book at least for now at the beginning of this journey.

Also, the Good Omens miniseries is fantastic and holds very close to the book, presumably through Neil Gaiman’s influence. I do love one major change though: making the voice of God that of a woman.

Pandemic start

How to begin.

“Heaven has no taste.”


“And not one single sushi restaurant.”

A look of pain crossed the angel’s suddenly very serious face.” 

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Is a pandemic a good time to start a blog?

Probably not, but here we are. Those of us privileged enough to be able to #staythefuckhome are hopefully home.

What to do during this time, other than an anxiety driven panic, has been on my mind. I have always defaulted to learning new skills when presented with time at home. With that said, I plan on sharing some of the shenanigans we have been doing.

Full disclaimer, I am extremely prividleged to have a house over my head, food in my fridge, and everything we would need at home. I also work from home by default and while my husband is a medical professional, he works in the children’s hospital and so far has not yet had to help in the adult hospital #flattenthecurve. We are therefore, still being paid, and while I have lost a few of my client contracts, I am still fine.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy. This pandemic has brought out the best (and worse) in people and I look forward to a time where we can all stand shoulder to shoulder and breathe in the same room.

Also, I miss good sushi (image above found as a stock photo on I wish I had such a good sushi picture, something to think about for the future). Since moving to Northeast Florida almost two years ago, I have been unable to find good Japanese food and have had to rely on my visits to NYC. Which now, naturally, will not be for a while.

Tana and I are going on this journey of a pandemic blog together. You can read her first post here.

Another Pandemic Post

Sushi, can you tell?

“They just said, get up there and make some trouble,”

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Hello from Germany, where there’s not much sushi (though I did find some -shout out Watashi Sushi). Though it seems odd eating it so far from the ocean, I must recall I’m closer to the Atlantic than Coloradans are. As a vegetarian for decades, salmon was my gateway meat.

Like a lot of us thrust into a rather intense, hybrid adaptation of work/life under one roof, things are a bit rough around the edges. A bit like preparing for a hurricane while trying to remember stories (or IRL!) of life pre-polio vaccine. With the help of my tech-mess-home-office, I slapped together the sushi sketch above during a trial run for the Spouse’s online university class. We’ve moved passed cabin fever here.

Carolina and I have wrapped our way around the US and landed with our kids on opposite sides of said ocean, in countries we weren’t raised in. I feel fortunate to have moved for stable family employment after moving around so much the last 20 years. After the first post-college move, we started a blog writing collaboration to blow off steam and joke around.

This time, well! I miss writing, storytelling, and sharing permanent space with my bestie. I’m exhausted a lot of the time; starting over without knowing the language is a bit of a bumpy ride. Pre-pandemic, we found a groove: me with a part time job, reliable childcare, and grocery shopping checkouts were no longer terrifying! It only took a year. And now…they’re a bit scary again. It’s hard to force myself out of the box permanently. Two weeks on, two weeks off. Definitely an INFJ.

I don’t know how much trouble I can muster here, but I’m tired of waiting on the right time to write. Tired of reading other’s memes, and really tired of talking to myself in my head. So here we go!