Stoves (and Setting an Example)

By , July 30, 2007 7:16 pm

I recently wrote a post about a child who decided to take it upon herself to solve a problem and make a difference in the world. See my post: Involved Kids . In this post, I mention how much easier it seems for children and young people to take action when they sense a need. Adults are often too caught up in the complexities of life to bother.

It was with thoughts of this recently written post fresh in my mind, that I came upon this article in Newsweek magazine: The Flames of Hope (Newsweek, July 16, 2007) about a Berkeley physicist who has invented a stove to be used in Darfur that burns 75% less firewood. This seems unremarkable, but when you consider the unimaginable price women pay to leave their camp to simply collect cookstove firewood in Darfur (rape, mutilation, 7 hours of travel – men can’t go for they would simply be killed), it is a huge asset.

Apparently physicist Ashok Gadgil received a call in 2004 from the U.S. Agency for International Development asking if he could design a press for turning the Darfurians trash into fuel pellets. Gadgil determined that this was not a feasible plan, but rather than give up and carry on with his affairs, he continued to consider the fuel problem. He eventually realized that instead of redesigning the fuel, he could re-engineer the stove. So he did.

The result is an efficient stove that produces the high heat necessary for cooking the Darfurian staple diet of onions, garlic, and okra, resists the strong local winds, and requires 75% less fuel. This of course means fewer risky foraging expeditions and less negative environmental impact from wood harvesting.

The plan is for the stoves to be built locally and rented by the refugees. Obviously this means that money is needed to develop workshops, buy tools, provide training, and purchase inventory for the manufacture of the stoves. If you want to learn more, the project’s website is: Darfur Stoves Project. By the way, just $20 will provide a stove for a Darfur family.

Obviously the ideal solution would be to end the horrible situation in Darfur. But in the meantime, this project seems that it could at least help improve the refugees’ living conditions to some small extent.

I find people like Mr. Gadgil and 14 year-old Savannah Walters to be truly inspirational. As one of my commenters on the Involved Kids post said about her young daughter:

“So far, I’ve decided the best way for her to learn is by example, and I need to do a better job of that.” – Jenny, of Wildwood Cottage

Well, so do I Jenny. Perhaps my blog can be a motivating force for me in my efforts to overcome inertia and do what I know is right: set a good example for my children by volunteering to help others. Unfortunately I can’t single-handedly “Save Darfur,” but hopefully I can instill in my children a conscience and a desire to do good in the world. If everyone on this planet simply did that, then perhaps another Darfur would be less likely to occur.

(The June 2007 Oprah Magazine also featured a small article about the project: Fueling Hope.)

Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer Mike Reid.

All Women Should Read This Post

By , July 27, 2007 6:59 pm

As some of you may already know, Whymommy of Toddler Planet (a woman in her 30’s, mother of two young boys) has recently been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This is not a type of cancer that is familiar to most of us.

Of course we all know we are supposed to do monthly self-exams and have a physical once a year and mammograms over age 40…yes, yes, yes. This type of breast cancer however, does not usually present with a lump. It is a different animal altogether, a vicious, rapidly-spreading beast that tends to strike younger women.

Knowledge is power, so here I republish one of Whymommy’s posts on the subject. Please feel free to copy her words for your own blog. Whymommy’s goal is to spread the word and educate women (and men who have a woman in their life) about this cancer we never hear about.

Here is what she says:

“We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.


Thank you.

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.”

Involved Kids

By , July 27, 2007 7:50 am

I may be unplugged at home, but here at my Dad’s house there is TV. On Tuesday evening I saw a segment on CNN called CNN Heroes. It featured a 14 year-old girl from Tampa, Florida named Savannah Walters who has taken it upon herself to educate drivers about the gasoline that is wasted by underinflated tires. Click here to watch. Here is also another portion of the interview with Savannah that did not make it to the brief CNN Heroes clip.

Savannah has launched educational campaigns in 15 states (Pump ’em Up) and passed out 10,000 donated tire gauges! Simply by properly inflating our tires, we could easily collectively save a huge amount of gas. What an easy way to make an enormous positive impact on the environment!

What really struck me about this story however, was how this young girl (9 years-old at the time she began her crusade) simply decided that something needed to be done, AND DID IT! Why is it so hard for us grownups to take action when we see a need? Most adults can’t get it together to do this (myself included).

Savannah fell in love with the Arctic after her second grade class did an in-depth project about it. Saving the Arctic has been her passion ever since.

One day, environmental activist Lenny Kohm received a phone call from 9 year-old Savanna who said the “she wanted to call him and her Mom said it was OK.” He told her about the underinflated tire issue and her response was “So why don’t people pump them up?” Lenny said, “So why don’t you tell them to?” And she did.Perhaps children retain a simple logic, unadulterated by negativity, “baggage” and life’s other complications. Maybe that is why Savannah could do what so few of us adults can do.

As parents I believe that we should encourage that urge to take action when we see the spark in our children. Savannah’s parents obviously did it. I must remember this and follow it through rather than dismiss it and send them outside to play, by far the “easier” short-term choice.

Several months ago my children and I got into a conversation about how there are many people in the world who do not have enough to eat. In fact there are many people in our area who do not have enough to eat. This was an unfathomable concept for my kids.

I told them about our town soup kitchen and how local people donate food and volunteer to help feed the hungry of the community. My 6 year-old daughter said she wanted to go help too. I said that I would take her there to volunteer one day. But, I am ashamed to say that I have not yet done it despite frequent requests from her that we do so.

When I return from vacation I must remember Savannah. If I want my children to make a difference in this world then I must encourage them to follow their altruistic urges as they arise. My daughter and I will go to the soup kitchen and she will see families (many with children like her) who do not have enough to eat. Who knows where that might lead. She may not become the next Savannah, but at least she will have an understanding of other people’s lives and some of the many problems of this world that urgently need changing.For more information on starting your own Pump’em Up Chapter or hosting an event, please check out the

Pump’em Up website.

Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer Mary Vogt for this photo.

Apparently, I Can Schmooze?

By , July 25, 2007 9:25 pm

Wow! First a Rockin’ Girl Blogger Award, then I make the Vegetable A-List, and now I have been awarded the Schmooze Award! What a month! Perhaps I should go away more often.

Meeyauw has kindly bestowed upon me, the Blogging Community Involvement Award, aka. The Power of Schmooze Award. This is what the Schmooze Award means:

“As it goes, schmoozing is the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello – all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

Thank you Meeyauw! As a naturally shy person, this is an unlikely real-life award for me. Obviously Meeyauw and I have never met at a cocktail party otherwise she might feel compelled to reconsider her choice of recipient. However, I am grateful and am eager to bestow this honor on other bloggers whom I have come to “know” through mutual schmoozing as defined above.

There are several friendly bloggers out there who I have recently “met” via comments and the occasional email. I always enjoy their thoughtful comments and since they are spending time reading my blog, they obviously are not seeking out the “rich and successful”!

I pass this award on to the following blog friends (take it and put it on your blog (or not if you don’t want), and pass it on to others):

– Jen of Never a Dull Moment

Gattina of My Cats and Funny Stories and Writer Cramps

– Heather (aka. Celtic Mommy) of Ramblings of a SAHM

– Jules of Andamom.com

-Cheryl of A Day in the Life of our Homeschool Journey

Thanks again to Meeyauw who also would have been on this list had she not been the blogger to award me with this one!

I’m an A-Lister !!!!!!!!!!

By , July 24, 2007 9:02 pm

I got the call…the day before I left on my trip…it was the CSA…I am in!!!! A half share! The fall harvest! First shipment the day I get back! Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!

This came as a shock. I had been under the impression that not only was I not A-List Material at the present time, but I was on the W-List (as in the “What-Were-You-Thinking-Not-In-This-Lifetime-List;” or was that the “Wait-For-At-Least-Another-Year-Or-Two-Or-Maybe-When-Hell-Freezes-Over-List”).

No, I have not been conducting a systematic extermination of all those before me on the W-List. Nor have I been passing out bribes for volunteering to leave the list (although I did entertain that idea for a while). Apparently there is a teensy weensy chance that the CSA people might possibly have learned about my pathetic “A-List For Vegetables” post from a certain “Other A-Lister” (you know who you are) and either: 1) Felt very sorry for me, or 2) Become extremely concerned about my mental health, and bumped me up. I vote for the mental health issue. Or, maybe I was just higher on the list than I thought. Whatever the cause of my rapid rise to A-List Stardom, I am eternally grateful and soooo excited!

No more flaccid celery, puckered tomatoes, spongy zucchini, or dubious daikon. Apples will not be so shiny that I can use them to check for the remains of slimy lettuce between my teeth, and perhaps the apples might even have (gasp!!!)…AN IMPERFECTION.

On August 8th, 2007 a box of freshly picked produce will be lovingly delivered to my door and placed in my eager hands by the farmer himself. With bated breath I shall open the box to reveal all of Earth’s pristine bounty laid out before my eyes, the warm Arizona soil still clinging to crevices in the delicate pure and unadulterated flesh. I shall behold flawless treasures begging to be transformed into fresh and healthy gourmet meals for my little ones and me.

Of course my angels will love savoring exotic dishes of kohlrabi and endive. They will beg for seconds and thirds of swiss chard and turnips. I can hear it now: “Mama, Mama, PLEASE don’t make us eat that awful frozen pizza that we used to like so much!!! Can’t we have Bok Choi and Beetroot Goulash tonight instead?? Pleeeeeese!!!! Pretty pleeeeese????” Instead of Chicken Fingers and 7-Up, they will demand Okra Twizzles accompanied by Brussel Sprout Smoothies.

Well, maybe not. A bit of encouragement might be necessary. A Kids Cook Night Bok Choi and Beetroot Goulash perhaps? Recipe to follow shortly.

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