My oldest has recently stated that she would like to be a vegetarian and I had to laugh - she really is reaching her adolescent milestones earlier than I did; I didn't actively go veggie until high school and here she is at middle school making that decision. I think that is largely due to peer experiences, since today's general population is jumping on the green bandwagon which would trickle down to younger kids more than it did even 10 to 15 years ago.  I stopped being a true vegetarian when I married my husband and got pregnant with twins, because it’s certainly possible to get enough protein in your diet to grow two babies, but it’s MUCH easier to have animal proteins in the mix.  Now that the twins are out and getting a little older, I’ve been bugging my husband about having fewer weekly meals with meat in them to save money.  When I was hanging by a thread at my last job it made sense, but now that I’m working more hours, it’s hard to argue with the guy getting dinner on the table every night. Since I’m full of random thoughts and musings, I thought this would be a good blog topic to cover off and on over the next few months – of not necessarily going back to being a strict vegetarian, but being more conscious and limiting what meats we are willing to eat and with what frequency.

I’m not sure what it is about the teenage years that spawn a need to be a vegetarian in an otherwise omnivorous household, but that seems to be an American rite-of-passage.  I’d be curious to know if this is common in other cultures – it’s probably similar in other countries that have a base diet similar to American’s, but I haven’t done much research on the topic yet.  Is it just an American, middle-class, white girl thing?  Regardless the reason, having gone through those internal arguments myself, I couldn’t really see any reasons for saying that my daughter couldn’t, other than telling her that if we were providing a meat-based entrée that she chose not to eat, she’s in charge of finding/making herself another protein source.  Basically, with twin 4-1/2-year-olds, I didn’t want to turn into a full time restaurant with different food for each individual at the table.  If the twins are willing to eat something, then that’s good enough for me and the 13-year-old can manage in the kitchen just fine if she’s motivated to do so.

Other than the environmental impact of consuming less animal proteins, as an engineer I’m ever the practical one and if a meal works without meat, then it’s cheaper and it works for me!  The only issue at the moment is that when I do our grocery shopping and plan out our meals for the week, I typically ended up coming home at least once or twice to ground turkey having been added because that’s the way the cook (dear hubby) likes it. But Honey, we don’t have to have meat in every meal! *sigh*

I thought this battle would continue even after my oldest’s recent veggie decree until my husband read an article regarding the training methods of some MMA fighters.  They have found they recover from their workouts faster if they don’t eat meat, so he’s finally willing to have that conversation even though he’s not a pro MMA fighter.  He also brought up a point that I agree with completely – we don’t want to impose upon anyone else that feeds us.  So when the Thanksgiving turkey is getting cut, we’re not going to staunchly state that we are vegetarians and won’t eat it (“we” meaning my hubby and I, who knows what my oldest will do).  We’ll eat it just fine, it will just be something that we won’t actively seek out for our own home anymore.  We’re going to use up what’s left of the meat in our freezer (mostly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and ground turkey) and then go veggie from there.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about all of this as we go, including adding new recipes to my index that suit our new preferences.  We’ll see how far we take this and I’ll be researching and documenting more about where we’re starting from and how far we make it in having our household go veggie.

Any helpful tips or recipes to start our adventure with?  Most notably ones that a 13-year-old would be willing to prepare? 
After my last couple posts were about the revolutions going on in North Africa and the Middle East, I was really hoping to be able to muse about something a little more positive.  But after looking through some of the photos of the damage in Christchurch, New Zealand from Monday's 6.3 quake, I thought this might be a good time to remind the rest of the people around the Pacific Rim (as well as other seismic-prone areas) to make sure you're prepared for an earthquake near you.

The Seattle area had the 6.8 Nisqually quake happen back on February 28, 2001 and survived relatively unscathed.  Even Christchurch had a 7.1-magnitude quake back in September without casualties before the aftershock that occurred closer to the city yesterday further damaging and collapsing already weakened buildings.  It's easy to put off quakes in Alaska or even the one in Haiti as "not in my neighborhood" type events, but there will come a time along the West Coast of the U.S. where a large earthquake will do heavy damage to a lot of structures and a lot of people will be hurt and killed.  I feel like I'm being pessimistic, but it really is just being realistic in this case: I'm a structural engineer who has seen her fair share of inadequately designed buildings and heard a fair amount from more experienced engineers than I about all of the weaknesses that older - and sometimes not even all that old - buildings have.

So what do we do to get ready?  In King County, Washington - where Seattle is located - they've come up with a 3 Days, 3 Ways campaign for people to be prepared for natural disasters; FEMA has a similar site setup; and the Red Cross has a few resources for getting a disaster supply kit together, including a first aid kit.  The FEMA site even has a family list of supplies in their kids readiness section.

I think most people have some awareness of what they should have - it's really just a matter of finding a way to collect and store the items.  My dad actually built a little shed on the side of our house (I grew up in Southern California), but I actually got my family a Rubbermaid shed that holds most of our emergency kit/camping gear.  It sits outside our garage in the back yard and is fairly convenient for when we need to grab a sleeping bag, but outside enough that if something happened to our house, we'd still be able to access it without any issues.

Basically, even if it's just a couple flashlights and cans of food (with a can opener!), please learn from the tragedies of others to better prepare yourself.  I know I'm not as prepared as I could be, but I'm working on it - just like our emergency fund in the bank with 3-6 months of expenses!
After posting last week about hoping the momentum from Egypt's peaceful revolution would be able to topple other oppressive governments around North Africa and the Middle East, we're now getting reports about the violence that the current leaders are using against their unarmed citizens to stop the protests - and it's not working!  Libya seems to be the worst at the moment with over 200 killed, but it's also looking like the violence is turning some of the security forces against their leaders since they don't want to shoot at their fellow countrymen (and women).  If Egypt can go (relatively) peacefully and Libya can manage it even with violence, then I think the other countries have a really good chance at being able to keep their voices sounding together to get their demands met.  Whether it's removing a leader or just changing laws for greater freedoms, I think Mubarak is coming out looking better than Gadhafi in terms of how they've treated their people.  It remains to be seen if it will continue this way.

I've even heard stories now of attempts at a revolution in China, but I think that one will be much more difficult with the restrictions the government has on the people and their daily life already.  It's always amazing to see what strength people can have when they truly believe in their cause - whether it's religious, political, or any other.  Whether used for "good" or not, passionate people working together can certainly achieve a lot.
So I've been MIA for two months, but the holidays got crazy and I got a little busy getting stuck on business trips in Missouri blizzards to worry about my little corner of the web here.  But I'm back and I'll try to get back to my weekly musings again...  Big news is that my oldest daughter turns 13 today - a little strange, but considering she's been playing the part for quite some time now, it's not going to be a big stretch for her to be a teenager.

I do have to say that I've been very interested in what has been going on across North Africa and into the Middle East - I don't always know the in's and out's of a particular country's politics, but to see such a passionate crowd as they had in Egypt actually be able to come together and affect change was amazing.  Hopefully others can do the same in countries where it is needed.  Everyone should have basic freedoms and representation.

Beginning one month ago, Tunisia and Egypt brought about the removal of their leaders and now Jordan, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, and I’m sure a couple others that I haven’t seen listed in the American media reports are trying to take a stand as well to show their discontent with the current state of leadership and a host of other injustices.  I do hope that the revolution can re-ignite in Iran to finish what the people tried to start after the elections in 2009.  I fully understand trying to keep people safe, but you can’t keep them quiet forever and the excuse is wearing thin.

Hopefully the internet can continue to assist the under-represented in coming together for peaceful demonstrations and get the word out that they’re not going home again until change happens.  I hope the success in Egypt gives them strength to continue to do what they know is right.
I love the concept of the Kindle - to be able to have so many books at your fingertips at one time is especially great for traveling.  Between traveling for work and traveling with my kids, I can use all the space savers I can get!  But there is one big reason holding me back from jumping on it: the library

It's not that I'm afraid of the downfall of the library, it's that if I read via Kindle, I'd have to actually purchase all the books that I read rather than borrow them from the library.  I'm a bit too cheap right now for a Kindle.  It totally works for me to borrow from the library, so why would I change that?  It's not like buying the book supports the medium of e-books - you have to buy the Kindle to begin with, so Amazon's getting their money.

I think one of my biggest arguments against getting a Kindle is that most of the books I'd want on the Kindle, because I read and re-read them, I already own a hardcopy of.  I'd have to re-purchase them to get the e-reader version and that's another knock against my frugal side.  Too bad Amazon doesn't provide a discount on books for Kindle that were originally purchased through them.  It's not like they don't have all of our purchases in a database somewhere anyway.

I did have to laugh at an article I read recently about how the Kindles are quite popular with the Romance Novel reading crowd - you can be reading it without displaying to the world the covers that aren't always what you want people to see you holding.  Since I'm not in that category of readers, I don't have a lot of added incentive to get one.

I'm quite interested in the technology though, and how they can create the reading screen that doesn't have the usual glare issues.  Technology is so much fun!

I guess for now I have to settle for my iPhone and just keep waiting for the right time to get a Kindle (or iPad!).
Yesterday marked the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  Both VERY different events, remembered for very different reasons, but remembered all the same.  There are other tragedies that have been occurring that have an impact on a smaller set of people: Elizabeth Edwards’ passing yesterday, one of my good friend’s parents’ passing a year ago, the conditions of the economy and how that’s effecting many households around the world.  We all experience highs and lows as we plod along and the successful ones are those that continue on after experiencing tragedy and those lows.  It’s different for everyone, but there’s a reason the saying “life goes on” is so well-known.

Since I’ve been working on Federal/Military projects lately, I’ve found myself thinking of the people I know and love that are or have been involved in the U.S. Armed Forces and how I can support them without joining the military myself.  These men and women are AMAZING folks who are dedicating themselves to my safety and freedom and I’m very appreciative.  I’m certainly not old enough to have any direct memories of Pearl Harbor, but after having been affected by 9/11, I can somewhat understand the enormity of the event as it relates to U.S. history.

The passing of John Lennon had a big impact on pop culture since he was a prolific singer-songwriter that changed the music industry forever and whose life was prematurely taken by an unstable man.  I think people have such an emotional attachment to music (and musicians) that Lennon’s death made a bigger impact on their immediate/daily lives.  They could pass off other things going on around the world as someone else’s tragedy, but – much like the death of Elvis – Lennon’s death hit a little closer to home.  At this point it’s not that his murder was a bigger deal than Pearl Harbor, but that it was more recent.  I also think that many people are more able or willing to forget events related to wars for whatever reason.  (I’m not even going to try to figure that one out).

The passing of Elizabeth Edwards yesterday was a sad event, but also only truly touches a select few that knew her.  Yes, she was a public figure, but I’m not going to say that her death touched outsiders more than her own children.  I’ve experienced the death of a parent due to cancer and even that pain fades over time.  As I was told by one family friend who had also lost her father and has been absolutely true: a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of my dad.  I also think over time the humor and perspective on what they meant to your life gets clearer.  My mom was careful not to elevate my dad to a status that he was not in real life.  Yes, he did a lot for the community and his students, but he was a real, flawed person and we can’t just remember the good times.  We have good and not-so-good memories and both are important to remember.

I can only hope that my friends who have lost their parents can find the same peace in who they are beyond their parents as I have.  There are many days that I’m sad that I can’t ask my dad about something that I know he could have helped with, but I have to keep moving along with the resources I do have.  Everything happens for a reason and we can’t even begin to imagine what reasons those may be.  We just have to live one day at a time and enjoy the life around us.

There was an article earlier this week in the Seattle Times regarding the drivers in Washington State that either through ignorance or misguided vigilantism causes them to not “keep right except to pass.”  If you haven't read it yet, go ahead and click the link and read.  It's okay, I'll wait.  Seriously.

Over the years I have lived in Western Washington I have definitely noticed this obnoxious phenomenon, but have also developed a theory that takes it one step further.  I think it’s a self-perpetuating issue that starts with stop-and-go traffic from too many people driving solo on the roads.  When the roads are full, people feel they really need to “fight” to get into the lane they want, or even to merge onto the freeway in the first place.  Once they’ve “won” and gotten the space, they are loathe to give it up to someone else and therefore follow too closely to the car in front of them and don’t change lanes to get back to the right after passing someone.  It took them thirty whole seconds to get into the left lane to pass that other car,  so now they’re not willing to change back into the right lane since they might pass another car in the next 5 miles and have to be ready for that eventuality even though there are 3 empty lanes to the right of them.

I’ve actually found that the far right lane is sometimes the “fast” lane because of all the folks that are parked in the left ones.  I’m not much of a help to solving this issue though, since I still have no idea how to get people to change into the right lane except when passing.  The other fun example was the guy riding on my rear bumper this morning before I tapped my breaks to get him to back off.  There were TWO left lanes that he could have used to pass me that were completely open – there was no need to tailgate me when I’m already going 65 mph.

This also gets phenomenally worse when there is rain even though Seattle is known to be a “rainy city” – no, we’re an overcast city with heavy mist much of the time.  In the rain people get worse at driving because they’re STILL not willing to get to the right, they STILL don’t want to use a safe following distance, and in addition have worse sight lines because of the rain factor.

And don’t even get me started about driving in the snow here.
So the new study is out on DADT and yet there is still opposition to overturning the out-dated policy.  Senator McCain is quoted as saying "We send these young people into combat.  We think they're mature enough to fight and die. I think they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness."  Sorry Mr. McCain, but by your own argument I think they’re mature enough to deal with it if the guy fighting next to them has a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend.  It’s not like they’re suddenly going to have pink camo.  For the great majority of the military population, it’s not going to make a difference. 

And more power to Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen when he said that "You do not have to agree with me on this issue, but don't think for one moment that I haven't carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that advice informs."  The military leaders who have been looking into it aren’t closeted guys looking for a way to come out themselves.  They’re looking for the best policies to serve their troops with as much inclusion as realistically allows.  (I phrased it that way since there are many willing to serve that can’t because of physical reasons, not because of sexual orientation ones).

I understand the basis behind the argument that it will hurt unit morale and cohesion, but what about the fact that none of current military personnel were asked how they felt about going for a 3rd deployment and being over there for 15 months and away from their families?  I think there are some decisions that you’re never going to get 100% agreement on, but if you can get a supermajority, then why not try to implement it.  They’re even willing to phase it in regarding combat units – much like they did with ethnic and gender minorities.

92 percent of troops in the survey who believed they had served with a gay person said they never saw an impact on their units' morale or effectiveness.  That’s a nine followed by a two.  How is 92 percent not a proper representation of the military population as a whole?

If the Joint Chiefs of Staff thinks it will work for his troops, why can't we trust his opinion
Yet again the Seattle area has shown its weakness when it comes to a couple inches of snow falling on the city.  I was able to make it to work just fine on Monday morning, but my commute home was more than doubled (and I was extremely luckily that's it) when the show started falling in the early afternoon.  Tuesday wasn't much better with all the ice and snow on the roads, so I decided it was a better use of my time to just work from home.  I made my conference calls just fine and emails were exchanged as normal.  Why spend half my day on the road to work for only a couple hours when I can stay at home and get only a couple hours of actual work done and spend time with my family?  :)  Today was a different story, however.  Today I knew it was going to be pointless to try to go in to work - not primarily because of the road conditions, but because it's the biggest travel day of the year.  My commute to work AND home would have been greatly increased due to all of the traffic volumes on the road.  Not my idea of a good time - and why add to everyone else's stress?  Luckily for me, the libraries are actually open today, so I can get out of the house to focus on getting my work done.

I think I've figured out why Seattle drivers are so freaky when it starts to snow around here - because the City and surrounding areas are consistently ill-prepared for the events and they know they really will be stuck for 5, 7, or even 9 hours on the road trying to get home.  We don't get snow like that often, but when we do it's the same thing every time.  Last time they were just totally unprepared.  This time they got the salt, sand, and de-icer trucks out there, but didn't expect that the melting snow would dilute the materials they spread on the road and just cause massive icing anyway.

I think when the City can consistently prove they can adequately plow and treat the roads, the people who have to drive on them will stop freaking out that they’ll be stuck for so long.  It would also greatly help the City’s cause if people were better experienced at driving in the snow, but there’s only so much you can do about that.  I'm still laughing at the Twitter hashtag of #snOMG.

Until then, we can just hope it melts soon and it doesn't stop too many of our families from making it to Thanksgiving celebrations.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately – first I was out of town for work most of last week and this week my computer has decided to not allow me to access the weebly site!  I’m going to have to look into why it’s forever loading on sites with the Google analytics.  The other main reason I haven’t written is that I haven’t felt inspired by a topic and since this isn’t my paying day job, I feel okay with not forcing myself to write.

I decided to start my holiday brainstorming and shopping early this year, so I’m almost done at this point.  I threw my oldest for a loop last night when I told her that she’d better get her list to me soon since I’m almost at my budget – she was amazed that she’d have to do it before Thanksgiving.  The biggest reason I’m almost done is that we did cave in and get the Wii console that I pondered about here.  I started the wonderful Craigslist slog through various listings and finally found one priced a bit higher than the typical console, but better for my family since there was four of every controller and the Wii Fit for me.  I’m fairly confident my oldest doesn’t read this blog, so I can post this surprise family gift; otherwise, her surprise will come sooner rather than later!  We’ve got quite a few games already that the twins can play, but I’m still hoping to track down the Disney DDR for us.  I have a feeling my oldest is still operating on the presumption that we will never have a video game console in our house since we’ve been telling her that for years.  Any good ideas out there for limiting/monitoring video game usage?  I have a feeling it will just be integrated into any TV time that they already get, but I have a feeling the demand will be a bit higher - at least to start.

My husband and I also broke down and bought iPhone 4’s.  Our last phones were really frustrating to use with turning themselves off all the time, so we got ourselves our own birthday gifts and went for it.  The twins love playing with Daddy’s – I don’t let them near mine much.  I’m only getting free apps so far since I’m sure I can spend way too much getting 99-cent apps all over the place.

Between the Wii, iPhones, Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters, and a shirt from Woot, we’re pretty well done with big stuff for my family.  Now I just need to figure out my mom and I’m all set!  The grandmas are getting pre-made meals for their freezers again which I did last year and it worked out well.  Of course, that really only works if we make it down to my mom’s house for the holidays which is the plan, but you can’t assume anything with air travel these days.

My in-laws are a different story, so we’ll see what we figure out for them this year.  They also typically get some sort of food from us.  We’ve done (all homemade) canned pears, applesauce, pancake mix, bread mix, and I don’t even remember what else.

The other technology that I discussed in my last post on the topic was regarding our computers.  We’re still down one desktop computer, but now that we have the iPhones, the laptop and netbook are enough for us.  I still have to get around to clearing out the old desk so we can get a laptop station there to hook into the existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but that’s not a huge deal at this point.

We’re also back in firewood season, so if you know anyone in King, Pierce, or Snohomish Counties that needs some dry, split firewood – let me know so I can pass along his prices.  Do you have a working fireplace?  Up until a couple months ago we didn’t, but our insert is now the primary source of heat for us.