31 May 2009

The Dollar Store Dilemma...

...or, questions that arise when trying to be an ethical consumer (well, as ethical as possible).

J and I tend to put a fair amount of thought into our purchasing habits. We try not to buy cheap, expendable items when a well made, long lasting alternative is available. We consider the packaging, the manufacturing process, and how much we really need/want a given item. We avoid shopping at stores which treat their employees poorly (*cough*Walmart*cough*). We try to buy local, or at least American-made when possible. I've even stopped buying fabric at JoAnn Fabrics, where it's nearly all made in China, and switched over to a local quilting fabric store where the prices are a little higher but the fabrics are American made. I buy less, but feel better knowing more about the source of the fabrics I do buy. We try to buy from companies with good reputations for employee care, environmental concern and overall social consciousness. In short, we think a lot about where we shop, what we buy, and why. (Which makes for long, drawn-out discussions about the merits and drawbacks of gasoline companies. Anyone have insight on which gas companies are the least awful?)

So what is one to do when it comes to simple, cheap, expendable items like stickers? Doodle has started to show an interest in potty learning (primarily because her good buddy A is working on it right now). I suggested she could get a sticker when she uses the potty, as a fun little "hooray!" reward. But where to buy stickers? High quality, expensive ($4+ for 1-2 sheets), American-made stickers can be purchased at one of the big box craft stores in town. Cheaper ($2-3 for 2 sheets), run of the mill made in China stickers can be found at the grocery store down the street. The same cheap, made in China stickers can probably be found at the dollar store for $1. What do I do?

I'd rather buy American, but don't feel like scrapbooky, archival quality stickers are really necessary for potty rewards. Plus we're grad students, so it feels ridiculously frivilous to spend $4+ on some stickers that will be promptly forgotten or discarded. So that leaves made in China, where the work conditions are unknown, and the same goes for environmental concerns (plus the darn stickers came all the way from China. Talk about a carbon footprint!). Do I buy them at the local grocery store for a markup, or go to the Dollar Store?

I know many people have no qualms about the Dollar Store. Maybe I'm just silly or overthinking things. But to me it feels like shopping there is further supporting the exploitation of cheap labor and lax environmental policies for the production of crappy, disposable goods. It makes me feel all icky inside. So I haven't shopped at one in quite a while. BUT back to my question: if the very same stickers are available at the local grocery store and at the Dollar Store, and we're a pair of far-from-rich grad students, what do we do? Do we support the Dollar Store (thereby supporting unfair labor practices abroad) by shopping there, but get a good price on some stickers for Doodle? Or do we support the local grocery store by paying more for the same stickers, and pat ourselves on the back for only kinda supporting cheap labor practices in China?

Or do we bag the sticker idea all together and, being the hippies we are, give her handmade clover-headbands from the front yard instead?

Really, what do you think? I want to know. What would you do?

28 May 2009

OMG Awesome

Two new favorite recipes:

Rhubarb soda. Simple and so delicious.

Plain whole wheat bagels. A little bit of work, but fresh bagels are well worth it.

If you need me (and it's not teaching or thesising hours) I'll be in our kitchen making more of this yumminess.

25 May 2009

Oneida Narrows

Sunday we teamed up with friend B and headed up to the Oneida Narrows of the Bear River in Idaho. J and B wanted to get their kayaking legs back, and decided to start with this mellow stretch of river to get the hang of things again. We drove up through a big storm, downpouring with thunder and lightning. But the water looked nice, and the rain was letting up, so they went ahead and got on the river.

Doodle and I were shuttle crew, dropping them off and then leapfrogging with J and B as they proceeded down the river. We'd stop, wave and yell, watch them pass, then pile in the car and drive a little further. Doodle had fun watching her Papa boating and yelling hi to him. The weather got progressively better and was clear and warmish by the time they reached the takeout. Doodle even got to sit in the boat with J at the takeout for a couple minutes. If I get the chance, I'll take video of her interpretation of paddling a kayak - it's hilarious.

After the river run, we proceeded a few miles up Oneida Narrows Road to our favorite hotspring - Maple Grove. B had never been there so we were happy to take her on her inaugural visit to our not-too-far-away getaway. It was a wonderful day.

Scenery shot, looking upriver from a bridge. J and B are just barely visible rounding the bend.

There's J, happy as can be.

Doodle and Papa at the takeout. The water was about a foot deep here.

Doodle taking charge of paddling.

Support Solar!

I just found out about this event, Solarfest, happening Saturday May 30th in Logan. From their website: "Solar fest is a fund raiser to support the development of an outreach center that will show the residents of Cache Valley how to develop our plentiful solar energy resources." Come support Solar Power in Cache Valley!

23 May 2009

Half way there!

Today I am officially 20 weeks pregnant - half way! I finally broke down and pulled out my maternity shirts yesterday, as my regular shirts were getting too short and showing about an inch of my stomach above my pants. Maternity pants are still too big and loose, so I'm making do with drawstring pants and some regular pants that would normally be two sizes too big.

Doodle got to feel the baby kick today. I was feeling strong, consistent kicks so I had her put her hand on my tummy, and rested mine on top of hers. Right away, kick! I told her it was the baby saying hi. She put her head close to my tummy and said, "hi, baby." Then told me, "I say hi to baby brudder." Apparently today she thinks the baby is a boy.

Here are photos at the halfway point.

Belly is still not too obvious when I stand up straight. Slouching, however, it's pretty obvious.

Blurry, but you can see my belly.

Little baby bump.

22 May 2009

Sting meme

I'm not usually one for passing around cheesy blog memes, but I really liked this one - Things That Have Stung Me. As a lover and researcher of bees, I felt this was right up my alley. So here are the rules:
List all the things that have stung you. Bites don’t count.
Pass the meme to 3 or more other bloggers you suspect have also been well-zinged.

Apis mellifera (honeybees) - once on my foot as a kid, once on my neck as a too-curious undergrad who got a little too close to a hive. Itchy, fair amount of swelling.

Lasioglossum sp. (sweat bees) - accidentally closed my hand while this little bee was lapping up sweat from between my fingers. Minimal swelling, a little itchy.

Halictus sp. (also sweat bees) - same as above.

Nomia melanderi (alkali bees) - when walking around in nesting aggregations where we estimated there were hundreds of thousands of these bees, occasionally one will fly up your shorts or between your shirt sleeve and arm. These stings puffed up a fair amount, and itched A LOT 2-3 days post-sting. Got probably 8 stings in two days.

Osmia sp. (mason bees) - surveying bee communities, I caught three bees in my net but only saw two. This was the third, and when trapped between my a vial and my hand, it took the reasonable action of stinging me. Sting site puffed up fast, but only itched for a day.

something unknown - once stung my collarbone in grade school, once stung me in the armpit my first day of bee surveys. If you can avoid it, don't ever get stung in the armpit. It swells up like a $%#*@& and leaves you with a puffy, floppy under arm swollen nearly past your elbow for about three days. Miserable.

again, ID unknown - somewhere in the North Dakota badlands I stood on an ant nest, getting a fair amount of angry ants up my pants. I proceeded to scream, throw my net, quickly drop my pants, and swat furiously until the stinging/burning sensation was gone.

Now, here are people I would like to know about:
FunEllen - a fellow bee researcher.
Lindsey - did her time in bee field work.
Olivia - has probably caught thousands more bees than I have, and can ID them all to species.

Let's see those sting stories, ladies!

19 May 2009

My aching legs

The past few days have been very busy. I've been active, and now my leg muscles are on the brink of mutiny. I think the activity is good (I've been having fun), but wow am I sore. Here's an account of the past few days, from the perspective of my quadriceps muscles:
  • Saturday: five (yes FIVE) hours of bellydance workshop. Lots and lots of shimmying, which means sore quads. Drove to City of Rocks in the evening.
  • Sunday: woke up feeling stiff. Spent the day hiking around, plus one leg-intensive climb. Legs still sore.
  • Monday: Scrambled up to rock outcroppings in Logan Canyon to help a friend catch bees at an endangered primrose. Lots of hill climbing. Legs? A bit more sore.
  • Tuesday: Biked to campus to pick up minibus for field trip. Hiked around for nearly two hours looking for fungi on a hillside. Holy sore legs, batman!
Either I was incredibly inactive this winter and my muscles have gotten used to being lazy (a possibility) or I've just started doing too much physical stuff day after day after day lately. Doesn't matter. What does matter is that my legs are really stinkin' sore, and I may declare tomorrow a minimal-leg-use day.

At least the bike ride home from campus is all downhill.

11 May 2009

Mother's Day

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you Moms!

My Mother's Day was wonderful. J and Doodle presented me with a selection of photos that J had printed out of Doodle and I, hanging out and having fun. It was nice to see photos of me being a mom, and remember all the fun stuff that we've done the past couple of years. Then J made me a delicious, fatty breakfast of eggs with mushrooms and onions, toast, bacon AND sausages. Mmm, fatty. Exactly what I wanted. After breakfast we gathered up our gear and headed up to Maple Grove Hot Springs for a few hours in the sun and warm water, soaking and relaxing. I love it up there. It's just far enough away that it feels like a getaway without it being a big deal to just go up for the afternoon. Plus it's beautiful and Doodle loves all the swimming and splashing.

(If you haven't been up to Maple Grove, you should totally go. Heck, tell me you want to go up there and I'll take you!)

We hung out for a few hours at Maple Grove in the warm spring/summer air, enjoying the pools and the wildlife (mostly bees, aquatic insects and territorial hummingbirds). We came home tired, hungry and sunburned, but loved it.

Thanks J and Doodle for a wonderful Mother's Day. I love you!

Bellypics, 18 weeks

When I was pregnant with Doodle, J and I were really good about taking photos to chronicle my belly growth during pregnancy. This time around, shockingly enough, we've been kind of busy and hadn't gotten around to it. Finally the stars aligned, and we took the first bellypics on Friday, just shy of 18 weeks pregnant. Below are the results. The jeans I'm wearing: two sizes larger than my pre-preg jeans. Weight gain so far: 10 lbs.

I'll try to be more consistent with the bellypics from here on out.

04 May 2009

Bellydance show May 15th

There's a bellydance show coming up next week here in Logan. Details are below. Tickets are $10 at the door, or $8 in advance. If you know you want tickets, let me know and I can get you the cheaper ones. But I need to know soon!

The Details:
Friday, May 15, 2009. Show starts at 7:30pm.
Location: USU Taggart Student Center Auditorium, Logan.
Tickets are $10.00 at the door, or $8 from me.
You can also purchase tickets at the Indian Oven in advance (I don't know if these are $8 or $10).

Join us for an evening of fun with the Shimmering Sands. Watch various Utah talent shimmy across the stage. Look for performances by Shazadi, Saffron (my troupe), Shimmering Sands Students and other great Utah talent. Plus special guest of the evening, Stephanie!

If you need more information, check out the Shimmering Sands School of Belly Dance website: shimmeringsandsbellydance.com