Friday, November 28, 2014

Cooking is fun!

Cooking is fun!

If you love food, like I do, then you probably also love to cook. But it's also a lot of work to cook from scratch and stay within a budget. Brainstorming menus, going grocery shopping, unpacking the food at home, cooking dinner, serving, eating, cleaning up afterwards. Usually enjoy doing almost all of these things, but that has changed. For the past six weeks or so, cooking has just been a chore. Hans is rarely ever home for dinner, or if he is home at dinnertime, he is eating breakfast and getting ready to go into work for an overnight shift while the girls and I are eating dinner. For the past six weeks, cooking hasn't been fun. It's been a chore, and one that I usually do with a toddler whining at my ankles for me to hold her.

Cook with me

This isn't how it should be, and, after so many weeks of galley-slave drudgery, I'd forgotten how much I love being in the galley, preparing healthy, delicious food. Years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver's collection of essays, Small Wonder. It is her response to September 11. In one essay she talks about food and that discussion has been a foundation of my relationship with food. Instead of viewing cooking dinner as one more task to be completed at the end of an already busy day, cooking dinner can be a communal, familial activity. Instead of playing board games for family bonding, cook together!

Hans and I have always liked to cook together. He is more of a perfectionist and will fuss pay close attention to the ingredients and preparation, while I like to glance at recipes for ideas and then throw things in the pan and hope it works improvise. In a galley as small as ours, we take turns sitting at the table sous chef-ing for each other while the other person is at the stove and we chat about our days.

The galley. It's a good-sized space for a boat, but tiny for land lubbers.   There is space for one person in that square bordered by the fridge, sink, and stove.

I've always invited Freja and Matilda into the galley with me - to add a cup of flour or stir the muffin batter. It's always messier and, no, they don't always eat the kale chips or zucchini fritters just because they participated in the cooking, but I love laying the groundwork for them to have healthy relationships with food, cooking, and eating.

But they're not the same as having another adult in the kitchen - another food lover and cook. I didn't realize how much I missed this until last Tuesday. Hans had a day off and it poured rain all day. So we cooked. He baked bread, I marinated chicken, he added steam to his bread to make that thick crust, I pressure-cooked the chicken. Then we ate. And, because we have two little ones, the meal only lasted for its usual ten minutes, but that didn't matter because it was so much more than the eating.

evidence of a good meal: clean plates, even the kid plates!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Top 10 ways to survive the winter as a liveaboard

Top 10 ways to survive the winter as a liveaboard

Baby, it's getting cold outside . . . 

With another polar vortex descending from the north, it’s time to think about how to keep warm this winter as a liveaboard in colder climates. (Okay, probably two weeks ago would have been more timely, but if you’re reading this as you’re sitting inside a down sleeping bag and your water line is frozen, it’s not too late!) 

I've typed up my top 10 tips to liveaboard your boat in the winter. Spoiler alert: the #1 way to survive the polar vortex involves palm trees and white sand beaches!

Read them all at:

We Float Through, the new website "of the liveaboards, by the liveaboards, for the liveaboards."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Missing urban density

Urban density: the environment's secret friend

Cities: loud, dirty, polluting, asthma-producing concrete jungles with high urban density. But, at the same time, environmentally friendly? Yes.

Urban density in Spain.
I know there are studies and reports and articles written about the environmental benefits of high urban density, but it was hard for me to believe them when we lived in Philadelphia.

One of our favorite park in Philadelphia; directly under the Ben Franklin Bridge.
 We lived right next to loud, dirty I-95 and practically underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge, a major bridge connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Our favorite parks were either under that bridge or at the interchange between I-95 and the bridge. It was loud and the amount of fine particulate that coated our boat and car made me worry about the quality of the air my girls were filling their lungs with. Moving to a smaller city seemed like a great way to live closer to nature with cleaner air, a slower pace of life, and a little more peace and quiet.

A quieter, cleaner life, but not necessarily and eco-life

And here we are. We moved from a city of over 5 million to a metro area of a little less than 850,000. It's practically a small town compared to the Philly metro area. Have I found what I was looking for?
  • Clean air. Yes. The boat and car stay relatively clean and my lungs don't burn when I exercise outside. (Okay, well they do burn but that has nothing to do with air quality.)
  • Peace and quiet. Yes and no. It is quiet walking around the neighborhood. We can hear the birds. There is no background hum of the highway. But we are close to a Naval Air Station and the planes run a lot of exercises directly overhead. We are also a stone's throw from the major railroad track that runs down the east coast of Florida. The trains are insanely loud. (Not the actual clickety-clack but the horns they blow as they go through intersections. And the horns have to be loud because the intersections are outdated, making the trains blow the horns as a precaution to warn drivers. But I digress...)
  • Close to nature. Yes. We are close to nature. The river is quiet and big and actually feels like a living body of water as opposed to the Delaware River which always felt like a large dumping ground for farms and industry and energy plants. We're even considering getting a stand up paddleboard so we can play on the river. (You know, in all our free time.) We are a short 30 minute drive to the beach and the city has lots of parks that are bigger than your average city park.
  • A beautiful beach, a short car ride away.
  • Slower pace of life. Yes. Rather, YES. It is slow here. Compared to a city of 5 million, there is not much going on. I'm not sure why I didn't fully expect that.
Clean air, peace and quiet, close to nature, slower pace of life. These all seem like they could go hand in hand with an eco-friendly way of life. But there is one key element missing: high urban density. This is a city built around cars. The sprawl is mammoth and it can take 30 minutes to drive from one end of the city to the other, on a highway, going 70 miles an hour. It is hard to wrap my head around how BIG this city is. People drive everywhere, the public transportation is sub-par, and it is not at all bicycle friendly.

So, yes, big cities are dirty and loud, but I'll venture a guess that the residents of a big city with high urban density are polluting (define as you like) less per capita than residents of a smaller city with big sprawl. 

Embracing the small

What do I miss about the big city? I miss impromptu conversations with random strangers as I walk down the street. I miss being able to walk to independent coffee shops. I miss being able to walk to friends' houses. I miss the color and the noise and the action.

The annual Mummers' parade on January 1 in Philly.
The Headhouse farmer's market in Philly. Local, organic produce every weekend.
Oh SEPTA. I didn't think I'd miss you so much.

So what do I love about my new city? I love the quiet. I love hearing the birds. I love living on a river that has boating possibilities from day trips to week-long trips. I love walking down tree-lined streets. I love all the parks. I love being able to go to the beach. Oh, and there are palm trees.

Palm trees, clean air, and a gorgeous sunset with wide open sky.

Monday, November 10, 2014

10 websites I love

I spend a lot of time online - from brief glances at Facebook to distract me and entertain me beyond the toddler/preschool sphere, to reading the news, getting recipes, finding inspiration, shopping, dreaming - I spend a lot of time online. I use this space to push me beyond just aimless surfing to interaction with friends, family, and my online community.

Here are ten website I love:

The Elephant Journal is a compendium of all sorts of articles about living a mindful life. It's right along the same lines that I hope this blog to be about, but with content from a large number of authors including one-time contributors and regular columnists.

Huffington Post
For news, opinion, silly stories, feel good stories, facts, and good reporting and writing. I love HP.

Dreaming about the boat for next year, for three years from now, for the one that will take us around the world.

The ultimate in time suck and connectivity device.

Weather Underground
My go-to weather source.

Time suck, but also recipe storage site and the place to go for ideas of organization projects and things to do with the kiddos.

We Float Through Life
A new, community website for liveaboards or wanna-be liveaboards. Funny, entertaining, informative.

The Tiny House Blog
Living simply in small spaces. We don't have a tiny house, but we do live in a small space and this blog is helpful and inspiring.

Jane Lear's food blog
Good food and good writing.

Sail magazine's blog feed
Just dreaming...

What about you? What are your favorite websites? How do you spend your time online?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

(Almost) carless in a car-centric city

We have one car. Two adults, two kids, one car. Statistically speaking, the car-people ratio in our family is not normal for a family living in America. Per capita vehicle ownership in the US is 809 cars per 1000 people; that number drops slightly in Florida with 710 cars per 1000 people.

It's easy to live without a car in big, densely populated cities with great public transportation. It's nearly impossible out in the rural hinterland. And all those medium-sized cities? The ease of being car-less falls somewhere in between easy and impossible. Choosing to be car-less in the US definitely requires some lifestyle compromises and intentional thought about where to live.

I  call my life "car-minimal." We're not car-less, but since Hans takes the car to work every day, and he works between 60-80 hours a week, I'm arguably more car-less than not. On his days off we have the luxury of jumping in the car and going to the beach or to the main library or Trader Joe's. So I'm straddling both worlds: car-less and speeding down Route 66. So, how do I get around with two little kids in tow on my car-less days? What are the important factors in living a car-minimal life?

Location, location, location
Choose your neighborhood and choose wisely. Decide your walking or biking or public transit distance and draw a radius around your house or apartment. What can you reach without a car?

Our marina is within spitting distance of the grocery store, a marine supply store, a Starbucks, a bagel shop, a couple banks, hair salons, a fantastic park, a pizza restaurant, and a sushi restaurant. We're a little further afield, but still bike-able or public transit-able to a library, some friends, other parks, cafes, etc.

Learn your local public transportation system
It may not be frequent, it may not go exactly where you want to go, but, in general, public transportation works. It's not scary, the people on it are not scary, it's usually clean, it's safe, and it's cheap.

I am a big fan of city buses. I love taking the bus. I know my closest bus route and I also know that it is generally on time (never early but sometimes late) and the buses are not frequent. So I have to know the schedule and I can't miss a bus if I have somewhere to be. Yes, it does take longer to get somewhere on the bus. Yes, on days when I have the car, I always choose to drive over going on the bus, but public transit is invaluable to me on my car-less days.

Find other ways to get around besides walking
If you want to live a car-minimal life, you've got to think outside of the box. I tow my girls around in a bike trailer. I take the bus. I like to walk. I compromise on what I want to do and when I can do it.

$$$. The number one reason we only have one car isn't aligned with higher morals or strident environmentalism. We only have one car because we only have one car. We moved from a big city in the northeast to a medium-sized city in the southeast. Having one car in the northeast was a luxury; having a car here isn't a necessity, per se, but it definitely makes life easier. A second car would be great, but we just don't have the cash to buy one and we're not willing to budget any money for a monthly car payment.

I also like the challenge of living outside of the car culture. I wish our cities were designed to be more bike and pedestrian friendly. I wish more people biked and walked and took public transit. I like getting to know my neighborhood because I spend a lot of time here, rather than trekking all over the city and suburbs to go to a new playground. By not having a second car, I actively support my ideals of community, environmentalism, and health.

The pitfalls
Of course there are many, many times when I wish we had a second car. The city is geographically big and I have friends that I can't visit because they live just too far away to bike or bus to. The main library has great kid programming, but it's a little beyond our biking radius. I don't mind a longer bike ride but it's hard to convince two sisters to sit happily together in a bike trailer for more than 15 minutes without fighting. And of course if it's raining out then we're stuck at home.

So, yes, if someone were to give me a car, I'd happily take it. But I know that I'd still limit my usage and I would still travel via bike or foot if I was going less than three miles. Just because we live in a car-centric culture, doesn't mean we need to travel via car every single time we leave home.

Yesterday, as we were getting off the boat to head to the park, my pre-schooler asked me if we were taking the car or bike or walking. I responded, bike and she groaned. Apparently she really wanted to go in the car. I explained, in 3-year-old speak that cars drink gas, but they don't drink all the gas. Some of the extra gas gets blown out into the air and makes the air dirty. Our bike doesn't drink gas, so if we travel by bike instead of in the car, we won't make the air dirty.

Simple, irrefutable pre-school level logic.