Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It Takes A Village - Cliche but True

"We can see, if we care to look, that the way we treat children - all of them, not just our own, and especially those in great need - defines the shape of the world we'll wake up in tomorrow. The most remarkable feature of human culture is its capacity to reach beyond the self and encompass the collective good." - Barbara Kingsolver

A dear friend reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver's excellent essay, "Somebody's Baby" in her collection called High Tide in Tucson. Like all of Kingsolver's nonfiction writing (and most of her fiction), it spoke to me pretty loudly. I'd read the essay back in the pre-Bean days. But now that I have a daughter, Kingsolver's exhortations to start collectively caring for the children in our families, our neighborhood, and our global community resonated even more. Today is my day at home with the Bean, so I won't spend too much time sitting at the computer writing. I'll just say, go read this essay.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Super Baby

While the life flux continues, I think that I'll try to get in some posts about the everyday stuff that we're trying to do to live more sustainably in the here and now. The Bean turned seven months yesterday. We had a lovely Easter dinner with my younger brother and his girlfriend: strata from my favorite all-around vegetarian cookbook, along with coleslaw, garlicky green beans and a few slices of ham for the meat eaters. Oh, and some oat and brown sugar coffee cake. Yum! Of course, the Bean is too young to partake in that kind of feast. But since we introduced solid foods a couple of months ago, we've fed her only homemade, organic foods. It makes me feel good to know exactly what's going into her tummy, we avoid the excessive packaging of tons of baby food jars, and it's a whole lot cheaper. Turns out it's pretty easy too.

I use Super Baby Food as my basic guide for how best to prepare the baby foods. There are timetables for when to introduce new foods, tips on how to store homemade baby food, and lots of pointers and recipes for feeding infants and toddlers whole foods. We introduce a new food every 4-7 days. Right now, the Bean eats mango, green beans, sweet potatoes (her hands down favorite), asparagus, banana, whole milk yogurt, pear, tofu, avocado, and zucchini. We usually mix those foods with store-bought rice cereal, oatmeal cereal, or multigrain cereal and some breast milk or water. Of course, some preparation is necessary to get those foods into baby form, but a little work upfront and a good Cuisinart go a long way.

My typical process goes like this:

1. Buy fresh organic produce. Steam, bake, or gently boil it. Drop into food processor. Puree, adding water as necessary to get the right consistency. If I’ve boiled the veggies or fruit, I just use the boiling water that has all those good nutrients. (Some items, like mangoes, don’t need to be cooked first.)

2. Use small glass jars to set aside any that we’ll feed the Bean over the next day or so. Pour the rest into ice cube trays. Below is a mixed tray of sweet potatoes and zukes. It’s amazing how far one sweet potato can go! I usually get about two dozen cubes from one.

3. Cover with foil and freeze. Put into freezer bags for storage.

When we’re ready to feed the Bean, we pop one of the cubes into the microwave to defrost for just a few seconds and mix it with the other ingredients. I don’t freeze the tofu or the bananas because those are so easy to mix up right before mealtime. I can’t wait for the summer produce to start rolling in so that Bean can enjoy the freshest local items. I’m sad that we won’t be able to have our usual community garden spot this summer, but I’m optimistic that we’re going to be in a new house in Pennsylvania by late spring/early summer. We probably won’t be able to get much in the ground for this summer, but we can get to work on figuring out where the Bean’s food will grow next year.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


While life continues to be chaotic here, I'm struggling to get back into the swing of blogging regularly. It's much easier to write about the everyday decisions that collectively create a better world than the big life decisions that our little family unit is muddling through. Plus I'm plum tired. In an effort to kick start the ol' blogging zeal, here's what's happening in my life right now.

We've been planning to move to City A for years now. It's where Matt grew up, it's closer to my mom and where I grew up, and it's accessible to lots of places where people that we love live. Oh, and the job market isn't bad. In the process of looking for a job there, I stumbled across some job postings in my hometown so we decided to check them out. We had never planned to move back to City B, but that was partly because we doubted that I could get the kind of job that I need right now. To make a long story short, I interviewed for two positions in City B, got offers from both, and declined both offers. In the end, they just weren't the best fit for me. There was true soul turmoil in the process because we started to get used to the idea of living in City B, buying some real land (which we could afford there despite the huge salary differential from the Boston market), and being close to my Mom. My Mom has always been my best friend, and the miles that separate us physically have not changed that. We email multiple times each day (my immediate family belongs to google groups - I highly recommend it for keeping in touch) and talk on the phone a few times per week. Anyway, the idea of raising the Bean close to her Grandma tugged hard at me. In the end, though, the situations just weren't right. Around the time that we were in City B for my interviews, I got word of a possible position in City A. Lots of antics with my headhunters in City B ensued (these people have no shame!). I eventually made my way to City A for an interview...and I loved it. The decision to turn down the positions in City B felt a whole lot better. Now I'm heading to City A for a second interview on Tuesday, and we're spending lots of time looking at real estate online. We won't be able to get nearly as much land, but even a couple acres would allow us to start growing some serious food and creating a small homestead...with dreams for more land in the future. We're all feeling hopeful...oh, and just a tad stressed.

Don't know why, but I just felt like I needed to get that out before I could move on with blogging.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I'm Alive!

If anyone's still reading, I wanted to write another quick piece to fill you in on what's been going on in our lives and why Ardent Eden has been silent over the past couple of weeks. The job search kicked up a couple of notches and the past three weeks have involved trips to Pennsylvania to interview with three companies. The interviews all went well, two offers were made and a third is expected. But, oh, the complexity of it all! Which part of the state to move to? How does a company's industry affect my values? How can you believe anything a headhunter tells you? Can we afford to have a homestead on a bunch of acres or is it best to start with a house with just a little land to get our hands dirty in and save some bucks for the Big Dream in the coming years? What's behind the story told at an interview?

We're wading through all of it. It has been all-consuming though. I can't deny the level of stress that has seemed to pervade each day. Because in addition to these huge life decisions, I'm still working hard at a demanding job, and being a wife and mother. But I feel like we're finally coming out on the other side of all of this. I'm starting to feel energized and excited about the possibilities again, rather than just feeling ragged and beaten down. I hope that you'll excuse the long absences here and join me for the ride.