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December 2011 (104 posts)
Can living smaller give you more freedom, or even help you to live a more meaningful life? This is the theory behind the growing Tiny House movement, made up of people building their own extremely adorable, minute (and often portable) dwellings. Whether done out of economic necessity or an urge to simplify life, downsizing can be a way to "live deliberately," in the words Henry David Thoreau, the patron saint of the Tiny House people. Personally, I love the idea that you don't need a big house to live big. Plus, these 400-square-feet-or-less homes make my apartment seem like a McMansion.
Christopher Smith, who had never built anything before, decided to build himself an extremely tiny house, and is now making a documentary about the process. Just watching the trailer got me thinking about what makes a place a home, what we really need to live--and how easy it would be to clean a 150-square-foot house.
Love it? For the next few days you can help fund the documentary on Kickstarter.
The joy of downsizing
Learning to live with less
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
NASA has discovered a new planet that's eerily similar to Earth. How to explain to your friends the way the Kepler telescope found it in the dark vastness of space.
Celebrate Write-A-Friend Month by sending a letter that your friend can actually read and remember. How to quickly brush up on your handwriting skills.
'Tis the season for giving—and wrapping. How to wrap a present without tape or glue, if you are rushing to a party and doing this on your lap in the car.
Honor Dewey Decimal Day—and your local librarian—this Saturday. How to teach your kids (and yourself) about this under-appreciated organizational system with a rap song that's so ridiculous you will be compelled to memorize it.
Dr. Oz's ultimate health checklist, including the medical tests you need
In my mind I am a scrappy urban pioneer who raises chickens on my fire escape and bakes everything from scratch, but I must stress that this is strictly in my own mind. In reality I have a real city-dweller’s squeamishness about food. My meat comes bloodless and entombed in cellophane; I get a little skeeved out when my mushrooms are dirty; I buy my bread pre-sliced whenever possible. I live, like many of us, entirely disconnected from the life cycle of what I eat.
As the Casper Star-Tribune reports, the sourdough starter is older than the rotary dial, airplane and modern assembly line. “Someone first stirred its ingredients together the same year the Eiffel Tower opened and Vincent van Gogh painted ‘Starry Night.’... It’s older than the state of Wyoming.” (I think I have some take-out packets of ketchup that old, but I’m not proud of them.) Anyway, 83-year-old Dumbrill, who inherited the starter from her mother (who could track it back to a 19th-century sheepherder’s wagon), says it’s easy to keep: you just have to put it in a ceramic jar in the fridge and “not be afraid if it doesn’t look good.” (You simply must read the entire article for what she means by that, and why the starter could "make some women squeamish.")
The sourdough starter has become something of a local celebrity, the star of
fundraising pancake dinners and political meet-and-greets. But what I love best
about this story is Dumbrill’s “go with the flow attitude -- “Nothing about
sourdough is absolutely absolute,” she told the Tribune. A little of this, a
little of that, and voila, you have a delicious meal that contains a link to
history, a dash of pioneer woman spirit, and tastes great with whipped cream.
As this article explains, these treats with such lovely names are made of sugar hardened around a central seed in successive layers using a process called "panning" (think Jawbreakers). In Moore's time, they were often made with caraway or cardamom seeds, or almonds at the center; their shape resembled plums, hence the name. The essay also offers a very sweet reason for why Moore would have them dancing in children's heads.
These days, sugar plums aren't so popular, but recipes abound. Most don't even involve any cooking; they simply advise you to mix ingredients ranging from dates, walnuts, cranberries, prunes, hazelnuts, jam, sugar and spices; to almonds, honey, orange zest and apricots, roll them into a ball and coat them in sugar. Alton Brown's recipe comes with a helpful video (it's worth watching, if only for the drill sargeant fairy dancing above the food processor).
7 out-of-this-world candy recipes
25 Christmas cookies to try
Good news for parents of the small lunatics we call toddlers: scientists have decoded the classic tantrum.
Lower your blood pressure instantly by looking at pandas. Lots and lots of pictures of pandas.
Homemade cereal, pizza popcorn, and more: these edible gifts are easy, need no wrapping and work for anyone.
The Life-Lifter: The world's most famous famine-survivor, near-dead of hunger at age 3, has survived, thrived, and given birth to a baby girl of her own.
Every Monday, we're rounding up the things, small and big, that make us stop and think. Today, we're inspired by...
"Don't read your reviews— the bad ones hurt too much and the good ones make you weak.”
-Joan Rivers’ advice to comedian Louis CK.
"Media is killing our daughters' ambition and destroying empathy in our sons. Let’s demand a media that uplifts us all."
-Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the filmmaker behind the documentary Miss Representation, speaking at TEDxWomen last week.
"If we want to understand plants, and their minds, we need to
start not with computation, but with the fact that they are alive."
"Like health itself, the loss of such a thing can’t be
imagined until it occurs."
-Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi, on trying to meditate while under house arrest.
When I was pregnant, the first question people asked was never, "When are you due?" or "Why are you groaning like that?" but, inevitably, "Is it a boy or a girl?" This seemed fair enough. What surprised me was when they'd slyly add, "Which do you want?" Which did I want? Was I allowed to think or say anything other than "Oh, either! Of course! As long as it's healthy!", that platitude of the pregnant? What if I actually said, "We definitely want a girl. Have you seen boys? They're crazy. We'd just send a boy back."
I mean, really.
But in some parts of the world this is a far more serious issue. China, for example, where the one-child policy has resulted in a lopsided population because so many families abort girl babies. Or India, where baby girls are so dreaded that they are often killed. It's almost too terrible to believe. But could it be that what we need is...a marketing campaign? Fast Company has an intriguing series of mock ad campaigns, designed by leading advertising agencies that look to rebrand the whole "girl" concept. "Boys are 76% more likely to set something you love on fire," proclaims one tongue-in-cheek campaign. Others are more serious, urging consumers (parents?) to see their own value (even if they are, gulp, female), or to remind them that a baby girl might just be a future female CEO. The images are fascinating, the campaigns themselves thought-provoking. I mean, let's face it, the idea that girls would need to be rebranded at all is incredibly sad, but at least clever minds are at work on a creative solution.
Check out all the ad campaigns at Fast Company.
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, the dreamy and thought-provoking novella collection:
The Artist of Disappearance
by Anita Desai
We're all looking for the one moment of greatness in our lives. Sometimes we may even fantasize about it: we rush in front of the bus and save the toddler, we come through (impossibly) with the two million dollars needed to save the school for orphans. In Anita Desai's collection of three novellas, each character is presented with an opportunity to save something much more realistic, and paradoxically, much more magical. A bored young bureaucrat stumbles upon a forgotten museum in a rural Indian village, filled with exotic treasures from the Far East including a live elephant; a meek, lonely school teacher discovers a novel written in a dialect that's never been translated into English; three very urban-minded Bombay filmmakers find a mysterious, artistic garden hidden in the wilds of the mountains. In each case, the treasure under consideration is described with lavish, joyous detail. The museum, for example, is housed in a decrepit old mansion, with room after room of masks, porcelains, carpets and "jewel-like illustrations of floral and avian life, tiny figures mounted on curvaceous horses in pursuit of lions and gazelle, or kneeling before bearded saints in mountain cave." The question in all three cases is not just how saving (or ignoring) the object in danger will (or will not) transform each character's life as a whole, but how this decision reflects the direction of Indian society as it modernizes and Westernizes so rapidly. What does it mean to a culture when an object of great history and beauty disappears without have been discovered in the first place? You'll find yourself whipping through pages to find out what will happen to these endangered rarities—stopping only to drool over their descriptions, which is the real treasure of this book, sentences as wondrous as the wonders they bring to life.