The Battle of the Tortillas

When you hear “tortilla”, what comes to mind? Is it a thick potato omelet or a round flatbread made from cornmeal?

Growing up, I associated the word with corn chips because, well… you know, tortilla chips (which a Mexican friend told me were actually called totopos and not tortillas). And then I got introduced to burritos and soft tacos, so tortilla became that flatbread thing used to wrap around and contain ground meat, beans, rice, veggies, and cheese.

When I started majoring in Spanish, my professors introduced us to the peninsular Spanish language and culture first, so I learned about the other tortilla. What does it say about me that I found the fact that there were two entirely different kinds of tortilla infinitely interesting?

As intrigued as I was by the distinction between the Spanish tortilla and the Mexican tortilla, I was even more fascinated by the way the tortilla de patata is made. All that flipping and sliding seemed like kitchen acrobatics to me – riveting stuff.

Spanish Tortilla

At that time, I couldn’t even boil water (and I was in the Girl Scouts growing up too!). I just had nothing to do with the kitchen. My mother told me when I was two years old not to mess around in the kitchen or I was sure to burn or stab myself to death (not in those actual words, but you get the idea) and I took the warning to heart well into adulthood.

In any case, the Great Tortilla Distinction remained a fascination until, well, the present day. As a Spanish teacher, I integrated cooking the two kinds of tortilla into the lesson, the Spanish tortilla for the upper school classes and the Mexican tortilla (which is definitely easier to make) for the middle school ones. I even ordered a tortilla press, which turned out to be next to useless as we ended up preferring the good old rolling pin.

Now that I have my own family, the tortillas are also frequently in the menu. I have a bunch of picky eaters on my hands, so I have to plan carefully to ensure that mealtimes aren’t a battle of wills and that food isn’t wasted. No, I haven’t been able to train them to eat whatever’s in front of them. I didn’t even try, so let’s move on.

Fortunately, my kids love the Spanish tortilla and like chicken quesadillas. My daughter usually helps me when she’s not minding her brothers (she’s a regular Kristy Thomas – a little Baby-Sitters Club reference there, heehee).

The problem with our Spanish tortilla is that there are five of us and we definitely need more than one “pie”. My husband recently bought a bigger cast iron skillet (the man loves his skillets), so that might make a big enough pie for our family. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

I’m not going to share my tortilla de patata recipe here because, honestly, I just wing it most of the time, but this recipe is closest to what I usually do, only I add some butter, carrots, and paprika as well.

As for my chicken quesadilla. It’s one of my dumb and fast food choices, provided I had already made and frozen tortillas and there’s a jar of my husband’s famous salsa (well, famous at our church, lol) in the fridge.

I basically heat up some chicken breast nuggets, cut them into strips, melt some butter in the pan, place a tortilla in it, arrange chicken strips on top, grate cheese over them, see that the cheese has melted some, place a second tortilla on top, make sure the mess is stuck together, and then flip the whole thing over to fry the other side as well. There may also be strips of bell pepper, depending on its availability.

Which tortilla do you prefer? What do you usually make with Mexican tortillas? Share your tortilla knowledge and experience in the comments.

The Best Way to Use That App Called “RESPECT”

If you go to my personal Facebook page, you’d get the idea that I’m anti-gadget. I’m not. I use gadgets. I’m on the Internet a lot. I have to consciously wrest myself away from the Internet to make sure that I’m being mentally present with my kids. What I’m against, however, is the obnoxious, anti-social use of these mobile devices.

To those who know me, that may seem hypocritical. I can be very anti-social. Growing up, it was very characteristic of me to whip out a book wherever I might have been and read. I never did it, however, when I was in a social setting. I didn’t bring out my book and start reading while people were talking to me or trying to engage me. To do that would just be so rude.

These days, however, that seems to be the norm with smartphones. I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to grab somebody’s phone and hurl it at the wall. If I’m not as entertaining as a Facebook newsfeed or a YouTube video, then slink off to a corner and commit to your choice of engagement. I prefer that you not be in my presence at all if you’re not going to be present. Honestly, am I the only one who’s insulted by this kind of behavior?

I’m teaching my kids to not use gadgets when they’re supposed to be socializing. Right now, my daughter likes listening to music or watching movies on our old iPod. She also has a broken iPod Touch that we have yet to get around to having repaired, but with both, my rule for her is to not use either when she’s with other people. “Chat! Play!” I urge her, and I mean both in the unplugged sense.

She’s okay with this rule. She likes to talk (and, boy, does she!) and she appreciates all opportunities to play with other kids since she doesn’t get them on a daily basis, homeschooling as we do (Hold all comments about socialization – we’re happy with the organic socialization she gets. As a matter of fact, the issue I’m about to share rarely happens when we gather with other homeschoolers.).

The rub, however, is in the fact that most of the other kids she’s with are using their gadgets. The ones who aren’t using their gadgets are gathered around those who are using their gadgets. I hate seeing that. Whatever happened to playing tag, jacks, et cetera? Believe me, it may seem like “mirones” watching somebody else play chess, but it feels different.

Having banned my kid from gadget use when she’s with other people, she ends up being one of the kids to look over the gadget-using kid’s shoulder. When I come across this scene , my blood pressure rises (because, well, does anybody else think it’s pathetic?), which I try to hide, so I just calmly remind her that she has drawing materials in her bag, as well as a few toys she could play-share with other kids, not to mention whatever book she’s currently reading.

Call me a buttinski, but that little nudge gets me the result I want, and my kid is happy to remember that, yeah, she has those other options. As much as I prefer to just let kids be, there are moments when I feel compelled to interfere.

Take for example, this one time at church. I found Midge in the office, seated next to her friend, watching the other girl play on her tablet. The other kid was completely ignoring her, as absorbed as she was with the game she was playing.

It made me sad, not only because my daughter appeared a bit pitiful, looking on like that, but also because this should have been a chance for them to swap jokes, giggle together, talk each other’s ears off… I couldn’t help myself. I meddled.

“Hey, M!” I called my daughter over, while taking out a piece of paper and a pen from my bag. “Let’s see if you can guess this word. It’s something found inside this room.” And thus I started a game of Hangman with her.

After two words in and a lot of excited exclamations from M, the other girl placed her tablet down and wandered over to us. She soon started guessing along, and later, she asked for a turn to make us guess. I left them some minutes later happily playing that old chestnut of a game. I mentally dusted off my hands and thought, “My work here is done.”

I know there are those of you who see nothing wrong with kids playing with their gadgets in social settings and think it’s perfectly natural for kids to huddle around somebody playing on a gadget, but I disagree with valid reasons based on my personal convictions and values, and it is within my role as a parent to bring up my children accordingly. Believe me, there have been a few occasions where she asked that irritating question that begins with “How come my friends’ parents let them…?” but she has now memorized my reply: “Different families, different values, different priorities.”

Please don’t misunderstand. My kids get a lot of screen time – more than I’m happy with actually. What I’m opposed to is people ignoring each other in a social situation to focus on their gadget.

Feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with me.

Get Inspiration from Last Year’s Summer Bucket List

I saw a bunch of “things your kids can do in Manila” type of posts on my Facebook news feed, mainly stuff you have to pay for like lessons and camps, but, still, it got me thinking about this summer’s bucket list.

Okay, two things.

First, I know the term “bucket list” is supposed to refer to a life list and not a to-do list for a limited period of time since it stems from the expression “kick the bucket”, but I’m okay with using the term incorrectly, so moving on.

Second, I’m a chronic list maker. I make lists for everything. And I have a compulsion to make my lists as long as possible (I really have to curb this inclination when making the grocery list), so when I make bucket lists, they tend to be ridiculously long.

These two points serve as a sort of disclaimer as I’m about to share our family’s 2016 summer bucket list. It’s nothing fancy, just a colorful Word doc that I copied and pasted onto Paint, so I can share it as an image here on the blog. I obviously have mad tech skills, lol. My husband, who’s a techie, is probably cringing in embarrassment as he goes through this post.

I could have, of course, scanned the printout I had posted on the fridge all through summer of last year, but that’s kind of grungy with smeared ink, dirty fingerprints, and other stains, not to mention non-matching highlighters used to strike through accomplished items. Also, it’s now glued to the kids’ smashbook (it’s actually my smashbook, but it’s about the kids, so… yeah) and it would be a wonky scan.

Anyway, here it is.

You probably noticed the rather excessive number of items, but that’s just how I am. I like to aim high, so even if I didn’t accomplish everything, I’d still have done a lot. I also like to be thorough so my list can be as long as I can make it. I also put in a lot of “sure bets” because I like crossing things off the list. Don’t judge. It’s not that freaky. There are lots of silly list-makers out there. At least, I don’t add things to the original list for the purpose of having something to cross out, although I can understand how that can be fun and satisfying too.

Why am I sharing our old list? I thought it might provide some inspiration in case you want to make your own summer bucket list. Some of the items on this list are quite specific to our family’s preferences, but many are pretty generic to the season too. In any case, I’m making a new list for this year, and I can see that I’ll be keeping many of the items, but I’ll be weeding out a couple of things I’m not interested in at the moment. I might even come up with a free printable of a generic summer list, but that really depends on whether my husband has time to make something cute. I’m not about to give you something I made on Word and pasted on Paint. 🙂

Do you make bucket lists as well? What are your traditions and must-dos for summer? I would love to hear your ideas. They might even end up on the printable. Don’t worry; I’ll credit you.

How to Make a Chocolate Spread from Scratch

Homemade Chocolate Spread

Necessity is the mother of… making things from scratch. I’ve found this to be true time and again. In the past, the need usually arose from the mistaken notion of having a better-stocked kitchen. Finding that, contrary to my expectation, I didn’t actually have pancake mix, confectioner’s sugar, apple pie filling, tortilla, taco seasoning, et cetera, et cetera, and having already made and announced plans that required them, I had no choice but to turn to the Internet for a solution. Recipes and tutorials always unfailingly came to my rescue.

We just had a full weekend and failed to do the groceries then and so Monday was met with a meager cupboard. I had planned to make pancakes from scratch, but found that my husband had visited a nearby bakery the previous night and came home with a passel of pan de sal (tasty local rolls considered a breakfast staple in the Philippines).

Okay, that worked. It meant I didn’t need to make pancakes. We had butter and blueberry jam, so we had something to put on the rolls. Nonetheless, I was primed to make something that morning. Also, I had to deal with picky eaters who had certain preferences.

Around here, the favored sandwich spread was either peanut butter or Nutella. Unfortunately, we were out of both, so I had to be resourceful. I had peanuts, but they were garlic flavored. I had no hazelnuts except ones embedded in chocolate bars. I had loads of chocolate chips though. I had butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla extract… I could make a chocolate spread.

I had to make some choices though. I had Hershey’s milk chocolate chips and Nestle Tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips. I had Dutche cocoa tablets (side note: I have a couple of Dutche products in my kitchen, which means my eyes frequently come across the brand name, which then means I usually find myself singing “Pass the Dutchie”) and Swiss Miss instant cocoa mix. Since my recipe will be using sugar, I decided to go with the less sweet options.

This is the recipe I ended up using:

Homemade Chocolate Spread

Ingredients:

  • ½ C sugar
  • ¼ C water
  • 1 T grated cocoa tablet
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • A stick of butter (½ C), cubed
  • ½ C semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Mix sugar, water, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Continue stirring over heat until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat.
  • Add vanilla extract, butter, and chocolate chips. Whisk until chocolate chips and butter melt and the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour into a container. Don’t worry that it’s too runny. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the fridge for two weeks.

Like I said, it’s a chocolate spread, so don’t expect it to taste like Nutella. In any case, it was a hit with my family.

I have to tell you though, making things from scratch is quite addictive. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and self-importance, kind of like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he made fire. If I had the time, I’d prefer to make most things from scratch. Nothing hardcore though. I’m not quite up to milling my own flour. Stop that thought. I was just talking to my husband about making our own brown rice flour and corn flour for when we finally go gluten-free, casein-free. At any rate, I’m not ready to pioneer a settlement in some lost frontier.

What are the things you have made from scratch? Do you enjoy the process? Or do you prefer the easier route? No judgment here. We’re very much familiar with the demands of modern living. Let us know your thoughts.

How to Clean Crayon Marks from Walls

Yesterday was the first time National Homeschool Day was celebrated here in the Philippines. My family celebrated by meeting up with other homeschool families in our area.

Homeschooling, no matter how outsiders view it, is a brave choice. The challenges it presents are tremendously tough. You get the sense that you can’t afford to screw up because you’ll only have yourself to blame, and how can you live with that?

Well, obviously, with a lot of self-directed mercy. More often than not, we’re our own harshest critics, but well-seasoned parenthood is peppered with mistakes. That’s a confused application of figurative language, but anyway… Veteran parenting is the kind that seems easy, that suggests you’ve arrived at expert level but – hah! –   I’m not holding my breath trying to get to that point of parenting bliss.

I get the feeling that it doesn’t really ever become easier. The challenges are new and just as intense as we graduate to new stages. If it really does feel somewhat lighter, perhaps what basically changed is our attitude. We’ve learned to be more forgiving of ourselves. We’ve learned to choose our battles. We’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff, like crayon marks on the walls.

That was some segue, lol. At any rate…

We have cream walls in our home, the perfect canvas for a small, exploring hand wielding a crayon (or a pencil, or a marker, or my favorite eyeliner…).

Who needs wallpaper when you have little vandals running loose and wild inside your house, right? I have veritable murals.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that they’ll eventually learn not to draw on the walls. While they haven’t yet, I’ll just have to enjoy a little bit of toddler graffiti at home.

We could, of course, clean up those wall scribbles, but if you’re like me and a little bit lackadaisical in keeping the house presentable, it would probably take you months before you get around to it. 😀 Why bother, right? A neat and immaculate home lasts all of ten seconds. It’s a losing battle I just don’t have the energy or will for, lol.

Through the years, I’ve learned to be happy with “relatively clean and tidy”. There are maybe two times a year when I think I want ten seconds of an uncluttered, spotless home and make the effort. That’s sporadic enough for me to convince myself that crayon-marked walls have a certain charm to them. 😀

If you can’t live with those crayon marks, however, of if you’re finally getting around to erasing them, here are some ways you can go about it.

You’ll need a wash rag or a tea towel for every method, but the main cleaning ingredients are:

  • Method 1 – milk
  • Method 2 – toothpaste
  • Method 3 – baby oil
  • Method 4 – water and baking soda

Watch how successful my daughter and I were with each one in this video.

As it turned out, crayon marks aren’t that hard to erase from walls. After we made this video, we also tried with some plain water and soap, and the marks came off pretty easily as well.

Basically, we learned that we didn’t need to make a big production of getting rid of those crayon marks. The high difficulty level of the task was all in my head. Now, I don’t know about markers and pen ink. We’ll attack those marks next.

Btw, the video. It was our first video-making effort, which you can probably tell. It’s one of the skills my daughter is interested in acquiring (she says she wants her own YouTube channel), so we’re exploring it together. Just from this one, she has learned to use so many features of a basic video editing program. She was definitely more comfortable and knowledgeable in navigating her way through it than me.

She wanted to do a bunch of other fancy things, but I convinced her to keep it simple this first time. We also removed the music we’d initially put in because we learned that there’s a certain caveat if you use something from the YouTube audio library. I don’t understand it all that well yet, so I thought we’d better not use any music for now. I didn’t want to use music from elsewhere either until I look into copyright issues, so it’s just our voices and the hum of the AC, lol.

I promise, next time, we’ll use a better camera, a tripod, a mic, and my husband’s help. He actually knows how to edit videos, but he’s been busy. In any case, my daughter and I had a lot of fun floundering our way through this experience. 😀

That’s it for this post. What’s your attitude toward toddler graffiti? What method do you use for removing them? Any advice on video-making? Let us know.

Fun and Fascinating Ways to Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

Dr. Seuss Day is tomorrow, March 2. On this day in 1904, the beloved children’s book author Dr Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachussetts. He adopted his pen name Dr. Seuss when he was still a university student in Dartmouth. That’s what he is most known for, although he also used other pseudonyms such as Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, and Theophrastus Seuss.

From his name, Dr. Seuss is obviously of German descent, and if you know the most basic of the German language, you’ll know that Seuss should rhyme with choice and not choose; however, Dr. Seuss didn’t mind the anglicized pronunciation it popularly took on since it rhymed with Mother Goose. 🙂

I grew up loving Dr. Seuss books, even if the Cat in the Hat often stressed me out. 😀 Now, I’m happy to share the “obSeussion” with my kids. My 10-year old daughter, who’s all about being silly, can’t get enough of the rhymes. The two younger boys love the cadence of these rhymes when being read to, and they definitely also enjoy flipping through the pages and looking at the illustration.

In our family, children’s books do not remain in pristine condition. They also usually don’t stay in the bookcase either. I’m not one for keeping things that were meant for my kids out of their reach. Unfortunately, this means that some pages have rips, scribbles, drool marks, etc. Even the board books are far from damage-proof. This means that our Dr. Seuss books all bear the evidence of my kids’ fondness for them. See?

seuss books

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But that’s just me. Different families, different values, different ways of doing things. 🙂

To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday, the US assigned the date National Read across America Day. We’re not in the US, so we can’t observe that. 😀 Having said that, we’d definitely be reading our copies of Dr. Seuss’ books. We’d do other activities as well.  The day’s going to be pretty full. I should’ve made it Dr. Seuss week instead. Here are some of the things I’m including in the day’s program:

green eggs

  • Breakfast of green eggs and ham while listening and probably singing along to songs from Seussical the Musical. (I can paint the ham, but I think I’ll limit the food dye to the eggs. If you want to use something natural – although mine is store-bought “natural” food color – you could puree broccoli and mix it with beaten eggs for a green omelet.)

  • Dr. Seuss books read-aloud from my ten-year-old and our homeschool puppets. (save One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish for later)
  • Visit to Seussville.com for games.
  • First movie (Cat in the Hat).
  • Crafts: truffula trees (pipe cleaners and yarn pompoms), oobleck (homemade slime, basically), Cat in the Hat mask (construction paper and markers).


seuss-oobleck

  • Afternoon snack of homemade goldfish crackers while reading One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. (makeshift mold using a strip cut from a foil dish or soda can)
  • Second movie (The Lorax).

That’s going to be it for our Dr. Seuss Day, which I think is already plenty, but we love Dr. Seuss, so it’s all good.

Do you plan to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday? What activities will you do? How do you make your green eggs and ham? What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Mine is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Let us know in the comments section.

 

6 Excellent Reasons Why Birdwatching Is Worth Your While

Java Sparrow in Intramuros

We went birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. This was the third time we took advantage of the free guided birding trips periodically offered by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. Not only that, I finally signed up to become a member. I’ve been wanting to join the club for the longest time and I finally did it. Yay, me! It only took me seven years.

My primary reason for joining is that I’ve always enjoyed birdwatching. I’m as much a “Look at that bird” person as a “Look at the moon” one, I suppose. 😀 My spark bird (the one that ignited the interest in birdwatching) was a bee hummingbird I spotted one morning while I was vacationing at my aunt’s home in Southern California.

During that trip, I also frequently saw bluebirds, seagulls, crows, and Pelicans. For a girl who’d never seen anything but Eurasian tree sparrows (maya) and pigeons freely flying about (I was wrong about this, btw), seeing different kinds of birds in the wild (well, suburban wild) was a huge deal.

Birdwatching is definitely an activity that I want to share with my family. It’s my own interest, but I believe that my kids can benefit so much from engaging in it as well. Let me list the obvious perks that come with birdwatching.

  1. You learn about nature and appreciate how full of wonders it is. Different aspects of nature are intertwined, so the knowledge gained won’t be limited to birds. The impact on your kids could also be that, from being exposed to nature, they won’t be easily impressed by materialistic goods. If you’re a homeschooler, you could also integrate birdwatching into nature walks, make creating a safe habitat for birds a project, etc.
  2. You get yourself outdoors. Have you ever heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder? Child advocacy expert Richard Louv coined the term, which refers to the condition in which human beings, particularly the young, spend less time outdoors, resulting in various behavioral problems. It’s important to get yourself and your family outdoors. If you’re kind of a homebody, you can start with your backyard, gradually move on to the park, and then move on to easy nature hikes. Perhaps you can venture farther and attempt something even more outdoorsy from there. You get to enjoy the fresh air, soak up the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D, and have an adventure.
  3. You get some great exercise – So engrossed in watching birds, you won’t notice that you’re walking miles at a time. This gives you a solid cardio workout. You also build up the strength of your upper arms, having to lug around spotting scopes as well as lift binoculars and hold them steadily.
  4. You effectively develop skills necessary to slow living. You learn to be more patient since birdwatching is not an exercise in instant gratification. Sometimes you have to wait hours (or years) to spot the bird you want to see. Besides that, birdwatching can also be a meditative activity and provide you with plenty of opportunity for contemplation and introspection.
  5. You hone quick reflexes and mental alertness at the same time that you develop patience. Birds won’t stop and pose for you while you scramble for your binoculars and focus them accordingly. You also need to be fast at spotting clues of a bird’s presence and identifying its kind based on the features you saw, no matter how fleetingly.
  6. You become a member of a special community. By becoming a birdwatcher, not only do you gain the physical and mental benefits of the activity, you also boost your social health. It’s a great way to meet kindred spirits, both offline and online.

Do you love birdwatching? Do you find it interesting and see yourself taking it up? Or do you think it’s, well, for the birds? Let us know your thoughts on this and tell us which birds you frequently see in your neighborhood.

*This post has affiliate links.

How to Effectively Transition into a Prepper

Inuit elders warn that the earth has shifted. They say that that their sky has changed. The sun and moon rise from different places than they used to. The sun is higher and warms up more quickly, giving them longer daylight for hunting.

They say that the Sun, the Moon, and the stars have all changed, affecting not only the temperature, but also how the wind blows. This makes it hard for the Inuit people, who inhabit the northern regions of the US, Canada, and Greenland, to predict the weather, something that is essential when living in the Arctic.

This warning happens to coincide with all the recent extreme weather events as well as the increased activity happening in the Ring of Fire, including the frequency of active volcanoes going berserk and large magnitude earthquakes occurring along the Ring of Fire.

This portent of doom and gloom, unscientific thought it may be, has definitely caused some disquiet to those living in the area. Californians buzz about the San Andreas Fault, which could unzip all at once with “The Big One”, making the entire state fall into the ocean.

Closer to home, we brace for the havoc that the West Valley Fault is expected to wreak. I live in Marikina so you can probably understand my concern. The experts say that the fault is ripe for a serious quake.

It doesn’t help that oarfish have been washing up ashore. Japanese myth has it that this “sea serpent” is a messenger from the sea god’s palace and is a herald of earthquakes.

Now, I listen to what the scientists say, but I’m not one to dismiss what the indigenous peoples and the animals are saying either. In this case, however, all parties are warning of impending catastrophe.

We could leave, of course, settle elsewhere, but we’re reluctant to disrupt our lives for a disaster that may or may not happen. And where would we move, anyway? Is there a place that is truly safe? So, we’ve decided to stay put, but we’ve also chosen to prepare as much as we can in the event that a devastating earthquake does occur.

We’re putting together an emergency earthquake kit, which includes:

  • Food and water (canned fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish; crackers and other packaged snacks with a long shelf life; camping food, etc.)
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Portable radio (better yet, get a flashlight radio – we won one  at our church’s Christmas raffle, and it’s really nifty)
  • First aid kit (include dust masks)
  • Rescue tools (wrench, hammer, crowbar, rope ladder, fire extinguisher, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous supplies for comfort and hygiene (sleeping bags, pillows, toiletries, wet wipes, paper towels, garbage bags, disposable plates/cups/cutlery, busy bags for the kids, etc.)

Of course, there are other things that need to be done. We need to train the kids on what to do if the quake strikes, identify safe points in the house and other places, fortify the house against intense tremors, etc. In short, it’s time to channel the preppers.

If you’re interested in learning the ways of preppers or survivalists, the following are some manuals, beginner’s guides, etc. available for free on Kindle at the time of this posting. You can get some good tips from the LA-specific manual as well.

Be it a looming earthquake, a supertyphoon, or even a zombie apocalypse, it’s good to be prepared. Are you the type to be ready for any eventuality or do you prefer to simply wing it?

*This post has affiliate links.

Practical Ways to Make Use of the Lavender in Your Garden

lavender

We don’t have a lot of outdoor space so we make do with container and vertical gardens. We don’t really have any ornamental plants at the moment, just ones that offer medicinal, gastronomic, and culinary value. I’d say that they are still pleasing to the eye even if they’re not strictly decorative.

Generally, we can eat or cook our plants. This is probably the reason why my husband, as he rearranged the pots hanging from our wall grid, asked me what the lavender was for.

I’m not sure what his intent was in asking that, if it was out of idle curiosity or if it was more pointed, but it got my back up and made me defensive.

I knew lavender was useful in so many ways, but at that moment, my brain shut down and I couldn’t come up with one practical purpose the plant has. As I fitfully stammered my way into a passable reply, my husband cut in, “Besides smelling nice.”

Rats! Aromatherapy was going to be my first point too. My mind hummed. It cried, “Food! He cares about that!” I knew lavender was added to cakes and other sweets, but I regret to say that I wasn’t able to make my case for lavender that day. I don’t remember why. Our children are master disruptors. No conversation between my husband and myself doesn’t get interrupted sooner or later.

The next time he asks though, I’ll be prepared. With bullet points too.

Having lavender in our tiny garden is smart because we can use it for:

  • Lavender tea – It calms you down, soothing anxiety and relieving stress.
  • Lavender-infused desserts – This may sound like eating something that tastes of soap or perfume, but did you know that lavender is actually one of the ingredients in herbes de provence? I also got to try a vanilla-lavender-honey ice cream in France and it was absolutely divine.
  • Lavender sachets – These are for scenting drawers and closets, especially where I place the kids’ pajamas. Lavender is known for inducing sleep and relaxation, so it helps to have their sleepwear smelling of it. I personally don’t need it as I pretty much pass out from exhaustion every night. What I need are stimulatory scents that help keep you awake such as mint and cinnamon.
  • Lavender nosegays – They not only serve as home décor placed in vases or hanging from a hook somewhere, they also make the house smell lovely. Lavender keeps on looking fresh even after it dries.
  • Lavender beauty and health aids – If you need to calm down, try rubbing lavender between your fingers and then massaging your temples. You could also use lavender and water as a facial mist. Honestly, there are so many benefits offered by lavender that there is an abundance of possibilities when it comes to its use.

Now that I’ve got my answer prepared, I can pretty much guarantee that the question of lavender’s relevance shall never arise again.

What about you? Do you have a lavender plant? Where and how do you use it?

Pluto Day – Remembering the Ninth Planet

pluto

Remember when they messed with the universe as we knew it and said Pluto wasn’t a planet? Did your innards violently recoil at the suggestion and make you want to take to the streets and instigate a mutiny against the responsible governing body? In this case, it was the IAU (International Astronomical Union).

I didn’t understand it then, but that didn’t stop me from having a strong opinion. And I was having none of it. I couldn’t accept what they did to Pluto. I’d never given much thought to the planet prior to that announcement, but I suddenly found myself a staunch champion of the planet – just one of many, as it turned out. Other people were also rising up in arms against the injustice done to the ninth planet. Yes, we astronomy non-experts weren’t going to take the experts’ word for it.

Thanks to the very fun and catchy “Dwarf Planet Nothin’” (the video of which can no longer be found on YouTube, but you can still listen to the song here), I found out what was going on. I also learned how to pronounce Kuiper.

Basically, they decided to have a set criteria for planet status qualification in the Solar System:

  • Must orbit around the Sun.
  • Must be big enough to be rounded by its own gravity.
  • Must have cleared is local neighborhood of other large objects.

Apparently, Pluto failed to meet the last requirement since it’s surrounded by other icy Kuiper Belt bodies.

But the fight continued and people who didn’t want to deal with changes in the Solar System they learned in school pushed for Pluto’s reinstatement as a planet. In 2015, word on the street was that it was about to happen. I don’t know what that was about since I couldn’t find anything official classifying Pluto as anything other than a dwarf planet.

People continue to be torn and confused. Officially, Pluto has dwarf planet status, a clear demotion from being Planet No.9, but many scientists are tirelessly working to prove that it deserves to be considered a planet once again. Hopefully, NASA’s interplanetary space probe New Horizons (which has some of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, btw) will be able to discover something in aid of this.

Whatever the experts say, Pluto will always be a real planet to me. I’m just waiting for the corroborating evidence, so… Happy Pluto Day, everyone!

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