Monday, December 29, 2008

ECO ACTION: Disconnecting / Reconnecting

The photo I took earlier today of the cables under the desk in my studio, shows that there's a lot left to do to finish "disassembling all the recording and audio equipment."

With an eye toward conservation, I've decided to rearrange all the electrical connections in the studio, too.

The goal is to eliminate the unnecessary consumption of electricity used in standby mode when the computers, printers, and music gear are off.  (AKA all those little glowing power lights that make the studio look like Christmas even after I've turned everything off and flipped the light switch at the end of the day.)

The solution is to put segments of the studio on separate power strips with ON/OFF switches, to be turned on only when needed.
  • one power strip for the studio equipment I use for teaching and my own practicing/songwriting activities
  • one power strip for the computer and frequently used peripherals
  • one power strip for my recording equipment
  • one power strip--that stays on all the time--for my studio phone/answering machine and cellphone charger
That ought to do it.

I can't stop using electricity and still record my music, but I can reduce what I consume.  This is one step toward making my music studio/office more eco-friendly.

Time Between Years

Each year for the past several I've taken the week between Christmas and New Years to dive into the process of cleaning and reorganizing my studio, and other parts of the house, with an eye toward what I envision accomplishing in the coming year.

It's always a time of reflection, a shifting of energy from past ways of being and doing toward ways that are a better fit for where the new year finds me and where I hope it will take me.

This is one of the few times of year when I don't have music students coming and going on a daily basis, or weekly rehearsals in our home with the 20 or more kids in our ensemble.  I'm able to shift my focus from helping others define and achieve their goals toward looking at and working toward my own, without distractions.

It's always a relaxed, playful and intense time.

Here are some of the results from previous years:

Don't know what I did between Christmas and New Years last year at this time (12/07-1/08). Maybe I'll dig back and see if I can figure that out.

This past year has been a bit of a bumpy ride, with the bumpy bits that I hope will not repeat in the year ahead, or any other for that matter.  4 months of less than optimal health, plus another encounter with the darker side of the human condition, are things to be left in the past, if at all possible.

We don't always get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose to continue making plans and working to make them real.  I'm actively choosing to move forward into the coming year, making my plans based on the likely assumption that these difficult things won't repeat in 2009.

And even if they do, or some other challenges come along, well ... here I am anyway.  And here are the ones I love and the life we have together.

Here's to making life simpler.  

Here's to enjoying what is.

Started last night disassembling all the recording and audio equipment in my studio, to be simplified and rearranged.

I've removed the things I no longer use (maybe never used) and the things that have worn out or broken from frequent use (an old amplifier, a CD changer/player and a cassette tape deck), and have  begun to arrange the few things needed for my new set up in a way that will make for easier work flow.  And maybe some actual recordings.

Between each thing that gets moved or removed there's pausing, looking, thinking, wiping up dust and grime, imagining whether this is the best way.  

It's hard work to rearrange.

I'm trying to keep in mind that "good enough" and done is far better than the perpetual struggle for an ideal "best" that's forever incomplete.  (Same goes for the editing/re-editing of this blog post.)

Now, back to it.  

Powering down.  Disconnecting.

Reconnecting in a new way.  Powering back up again.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

RECIPE: Boston Baked Beans-LESS SODIUM

This is a new original recipe from Kay's Kreative Kitchen.*  (Also made the pottery bowl and the bread in the photo by hand, but not today.)

I cooked this for lunch today, putting the pot of beans in the oven (Step #4 below) first thing this morning (Steps #1-3 prepared last night).  

The house smelled wonderful while I boxed up belated Christmas presents to send to family living on the other side of the US.  I removed the cover from the pot in the oven (Step #5) before heading out to the post office.  The baked beans were ready to eat when I got back.

Served along with some homemade sourdough bread, baked yesterday, this made a hardy lunch.  Comfort food for a gray winter day.

1-2 lb Small Red Beans, Dry (or Navy Beans)
1/2 lb Low Sodium Bacon (1/4 inch dice with kitchen shears)
1/2 cup Dark Molasses
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
1 cup Hot Water
1 Tbs Cider Vinegar
1/8 cup Dried Chopped Onion
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Ground Cloves


1) Quick soak beans. (Cover with water equal to 3 times volume of beans. Boil 3 minutes, remove from heat and allow to soak 1 hour.) Drain and rinse. (Quick soaking, draining and rinsing reduces the amount of indigestible starch in the beans, thereby reducing those well known after effects that give beans such a bad reputation.) Replace water and cook until tender, 1-1 ½ hrs. Can be done a day ahead.

2) In a bowl, stir together: molasses, maple syrup, water, vinegar, onion, mustard, brown sugar, salt and spices. Can refrigerate overnight to blend flavors and hydrate dried onions.

3) Layer beans and bacon in 4-quart or larger, oven safe cooking pot, in 3 layers ending with bacon on top. Pour liquid mixture over layers. Add enough hot water to just reach top of beans.

4) Cover and bake 4 hours in 300F oven, or 6-8 hours at 250F, until beans are tender. Add water as needed to keep moist. Stir only once or twice.

5) Uncover last 30 minutes of cooking to brown. If excess liquid remains, cook uncovered until boiled away.

*Though the primary ingredients and methods in this recipe were combined from several sources, my own original twists include: small red beans substituted for navy beans, low sodium bacon in place of salt pork, half the amount of salt called for in other recipes, dried onions instead of fresh chopped, replacing half the volume of molasses in other recipes with maple syrup, and a hint of ground cloves.

COST:  Less than $0.50 USD per serving.  Haven't figured it out exactly.

Monday, December 01, 2008

QUOTES: "Miracles" from "Leaves of Grass"

WHAT shall I give? and which are my miracles?

Realism is mine—my miracles—Take freely,
Take without end—I offer them to you wherever your
feet can carry you, or your eyes reach.

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the
edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the
bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at the table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a sum-
mer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars
shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new-moon
in spring;

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread
with the same,
Every cubic foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of
men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

~ Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, 1867 edition
[excerpted, read the poem in its entirety HERE]