Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Postman Always Rings Twice...

Jimmy The Postman
September, 1971
Click on photo to enlarge - © 1971 & 2008 jim otterstrom
I made this self-portrait 6 months into my 30 year postal career. If the patch on my left shoulder was more visible you'd see that it's not the stylized Postal Service eagle, but the old Post Office Department design with the maroon & blue embroidered Pony Express rider.
Been a lot o' water under the bridge since them days...
Still Delivering The Goods Though!
March, 26th, 2008
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

An ancient photo from the dregs, and one from yesterday's United Natural Foods co-op order arrival, tie 37 years of my life together with the delivery of goods.

I haven't been a very responsive blogger of late, and my only excuse is that it's a busy time around here and the computer isn't getting much attention.
Now we're out of town for 4 days, to the Eastern Sierra again for another visit with Brad, Amy, Claire & Hannah.
We'll catch a David Lindley performance in Bishop, do some hiking for sure, and I'm hoping to get some more photos of the lovely Alabama Hills!

See you Sunday evening, and maybe I can catch up on some of the comments then.
Both photos were taken by Jim using a tripod. Some things don't change much!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We Made The Front Page!

Click on article to enlarge - © 2008 Big Bear Grizzly & Kathy Portie

Our local newspaper, the Big Bear Grizzly, has been doing some recent stories on the high cost of gasoline and how people might cut back on their fuel expenses.

The paper got word of our car-free lifestyle and called us over the weekend to arrange an interview about our experiences.

So we knew this was coming out today but were surprised to see our mugs on the front page.

Peggy and I think the article is nicely written, simple and to the point, and we feel honored to be featured in our local paper.

There is one slight error in the story that I will correct here. It says that we retired from the Postal Service in 1997, but I retired in 2001, and Peggy retired in 2004.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Day In The Life...

Yesterday's Sunrise
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

At 7:08 yesterday morning Dallas and I were walking westward along the north shore of Big Bear Lake into an icy wind as the sun rose from the east to reveal the front of a storm moving over the ridges into the valley.

I was bundled up in several layers, with two pairs of mittens on, and still had to guzzle my dandelion/licorice root/ginger/turmeric tea down so I could put my insulated mug in my backpack, thus enabling me to keep my hands warmer in my pockets.

Furry ol' Dallas was unfazed though, alternating between wading in the ice water, and curiously sniffing through the brush along the shore.

I should've worn Thinsulate gloves and a parka instead of the mittens and thermal vest, but the storm was moving in earlier than predicted so I didn't really expect it to be that cold and windy on the lake yet.

Throughout our 2+ hour walk I was on the edge of discomfort but it was such a beautiful morning I didn't want to turn around, and besides, Dallas was having a blast.

So, I just occupied my mind with other things than the bitter cold and we made it all the way over to Juniper Point and back, about 5 miles round trip, with many stops to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

When we got home Peggy scrambled up some home grown eggs, with baked garlic, onions, tomato, green chili pepper & turmeric, and we juiced up a blend of beets, carrots, kale, parsley, cucumber, apple and ginger.

Once breakfast was over we bundled up again and went outside to prune the pear tree and clean up some winter debris in the yard & gardens.

We let our hens, and Boris the banty rooster, out of the chicken yard to roam the native plant garden in search of chicken delicacies.

We then uncovered our beds of winter greens, which were getting too warm this past week or so, with the spring like daytime temps, and decided to leave them uncovered to reap the benefits of the coming snowfall.

The greens (several types of lettuce, spinach, kale & green onions), have survived the frozen winter in their covered raised beds and are certainly hardy enough to withstand a March snowstorm or two. Very cold temps may slow them down a bit but the greens will spring back with the slightest warming daytime temperatures, especially after a healthful natural drenching.

We had some cord wood that was too long for our woodstove and I had cut that down to under 18" on Friday, so I cleaned up the scrap and sawdust from that project before snow started falling in the early afternoon.

The rest of the day was spent indoors by the warmth of a fire while Peggy put together a delicious Mushroom Tofu Stroganoff for dinner (see recipe at bottom of post).

By late afternoon snow was falling heavy, but intermittently, with patches of blue sky in between. We woke up this morning to enjoy our green tea with a view of 4 1/2 inches of fresh, light, white powder.

For breakfast today it's cooked buckwheat, quinoa flakes & oats with hemp hearts, banana, raspberries, blueberries and almond soymilk.

The appetizer was another juice blend of beet, carrot, kale, apple & ginger.


Today, at 8:30 A.M.
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
Adapted to our own particular tastes from
The Tassajara Recipe Book


Prepare yogurt cheese* and marinate tofu** at least 24 hours before you plan to prepare the meal.

1 16-ounce block of tofu, pressed, drained, and marinated**(see marinade recipe below)
3 tablespoons avocado (or sunflower seed) oil
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid amino’s (or substitute with more tamari or soy sauce)
1 large yellow onion, diced medium-small
1 pound Crimini or Shiitake mushrooms
5 cloves minced garlic
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon dried thyme (or ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced)
½ cup of dry sherry or red wine
1 cup of vegetable broth
1 ½ cups of yogurt cheese* (drain 32 oz. of plain yogurt through cheesecloth overnight in refrigerator)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.

Drain the marinated tofu (see recipe below)** on a slanted board while you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Cut the tofu into strips or cubes and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so.
Remove and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in a 12-inch sauté pan.
When the oil is hot, add the onions. Sauté them on a high heat until they begin to brown, then turn down the heat and cook the onions carefully until they begin to caramelize, stirring frequently. This will take about 15 minutes. They should be soft. While they are cooking, slice the mushrooms about ¼ inch thick, chop the garlic, and warm the vegetable broth.

Mix the garlic, paprika, and thyme into the cooked onions. Add the remaining tablespoon of avocado (or sunflower seed) oil, the tamari and the Bragg’s liquid amino’s. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle on the turmeric, and salt & pepper to taste while carefully stirring.

Once the mushrooms begin to cook, add the marinated tofu** (see below), the sherry or wine, and let bubble & simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Add the heated broth to the yogurt cheese. Once the mushrooms are sufficiently cooked, add the yogurt cheese & broth mix to the mushroom pan.

Cook until the sauce is hot (just a few minutes) and reduced to the thickness you want. Try not to boil the sauce for too long or the yogurt cheese will curdle.

Check the seasonings and serve over brown rice.

Tofu Marinade**
Also adapted to our tastes from The Tassajara Recipe Book

2 blocks of firm tofu (the stroganoff recipe only calls for one block of tufo but you can marinade the second one and save it for another meal)
½ ounce Crimini or Shiitake mushrooms
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 gloves garlic, pressed or finely grated.
½ cup avocado (or sunflower seed) oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup sherry
½ cup Bragg’s liquid aminos (or tamari soy sauce)
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch ground cloves
black pepper to taste

Drain & press the tofu to remove excess water.
Simmer the mushrooms in vegetable broth for 15 minutes
Toast the oregano in a small frying pan over a medium flame until it becomes aromatic (without burning).

Combine the remaining ingredients, including the oregano, to the simmering mushrooms.

Bring to a slow boil and simmer a couple of minutes longer.

Cut the tofu into four slabs.

Pour the hot marinade over the tofu slabs & marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The tofu can marinate several days.
If the tofu was reasonably fresh and fairly dry when it was marinated, the marinade can be boiled, strained, and kept refrigerated for reuse.
I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of this delicious meal, which included steamed brussel's sprouts, and a green salad with avocado & tomato, but the wonderful aromas permeating the house all afternoon had me so distracted that the only thing on my mind was, is it time to eat yet?
Peggy said she'd been wanting to try out this recipe for quite some time, and as far as I'm concerned, this one is a keeper!

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Sunday Sunset
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Visionary Architect, Humanitarian, Writer & Philosopher

Nader Khalili 1936-2008 Click on photo to enlarge - photo credit unknown
Borrowed from Kelly Hart at his Green Home Building Blog
"No one can prove there is a meaning to life. I must make my own life meaningful. That is all."
One of the ways Iranian born and educated architect Nader Khalili made his life meaningful was by designing and building beautiful earth-friendly super-adobe structures at his Cal-Earth Institute Of Earth Art And Architecture in nearby Hesperia, California. And by sharing his ideas and enthusiasm not only with his Cal-Earth students, but also within a larger global community of thoughtful, creative & hopeful people from all walks of life. People who are concerned about a viable future as they take deliberate steps toward sustainable living.
Peggy and I had been admiring Khalili's work, through photographs, newspaper articles, and websites for some 15 years before finally visiting Cal-Earth last April for a first-hand look at his delightful creations.
See photos at our post here.
We didn't get to meet Mr. Khalili when we were at Cal-Earth, we missed him by a day, and figured we'd get the chance on our next visit, but that's not going to happen.
Nader Khalili passed away last Wednesday, March 5th, he was 72 years old.
Much has been written about Nader Khalili by the people who knew, loved, and worked with him.
Yesterday morning, one of those people posted a comment at my previous post.
I have re-posted the comment below---and I thank 'anonymous' for the information---because Nader Khalili was the rare kind of human being this over-populated world needs more of.

"Nader Khalili, internationally renowned architect, author, and educator, passed away at the age of 72 on Wednesday, March 5th.He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital, of congestive heart failure.

Khalili was known for his innovation into the Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire System known as Ceramic Houses and the SuperAdobe Construction (sandbag and barbed wire) technique also known as Earthbag.

He developed his SuperAdobe technology in 1984, in response to a NASA call for designs for human settlements on the Moon and Mars.

He had been involved with Earth Architecture and Third World Development since 1975, and was a U.N. consultant for Earth Architecture.

In 1991 he founded the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth), in Hesperia, CA, which teaches his SuperAdobe building technique.

His sustainable solutions to human shelter have been published by NASA, and awarded by the United Nations, the Aga Khan award for Architecture, amongst others. (see, for more.)

He authored six books, including his international best-selling auto-biography, "Racing Alone," (his newest book "Emergency Shelter," available this summer) as well as two highly-acclaimed volumes translating the poetry of Rumi, "Fountain of Fire" and "Dancing the Flame."

Born in Iran as one of nine children, his quest was to empower the world's poor and refugees to build homes using the earth under their feet.

He was a prominent American leader on the value of ethically based architecture, where the needs of the homeless are considered above all else.

Inspired by the mystical poetry of Rumi, (whose poems he studied and translated, from an early age) his architecture was distilled from the timeless principles of this universe and its timeless materials -- the elements of earth, water, air, and fire, and has been described as "Poetry crystallized into structure."

Laura Huxley, Aldous Huxley's widow, called Khalili the "practical visionary."

He was a quiet hero and a gentle humanitarian, who wrote: "No one can prove there is a meaning to life. I must make my own life meaningful. That is all."

He is survived by his wife Iliona, son Dastan, daughter Sheefteh, eight brothers and sisters and extended family.

~~~The Burial Ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday March 11th at the Sontag Greek Amphitheater, Pomona College, 300 E. Bonita Avenue, Claremont, CA, 91711. North-East Parking Lot entrance.

Burial and wake to follow after the ceremony.

10:00 - 10:30 am arrive at the Sontag Greek Amphitheater: For directions call: (909) 576-9830 (The Sontag Greek Amphitheatre is adjacent to the Seaver Theatre due east of Oldenborg Residence Hall.

Located in a wonderful wooded area known as the Wash, it is secluded from traffic yet a five minute walk from the center of campus. There are many theaters in the college but only one open air amphitheater.)

Ceremony until around 12:00 noon.

Then to Oak Park Cemetery for the burial. The main entrance is at the end of Oak Park Drive, cross street with Sycamore Avenue. (909) 399-5487

After the burial, the wake/refreshments at the Seaver House, Pomona College close to the amphitheater and the organic garden."

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cELeBrATiNg 62 yEArS
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

My buddy Frank celebrated his 62nd yesterday and now we're in the same club again.

The 62-Club Fashionistas!

Air up those tires Frank, it's time for another bike ride!


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Friday, March 07, 2008

Predatory Capitalism Is Nearing Its Ugly Peak While The American Corpocracy Runs Amok!

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I just had to share this spot-on hilarious lambasting of the perfectly ludicrous Bush Oiligarchy.

And please excuse the iPod advertisement at the end of the video, ironic confirmation that even a freely shared parody of capitalism must be contaminated by the quest for $$$$!

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Jamie & Adam come to visit...

Our Daughter Jamie Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
Adam & JamieClick on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

~A Smile to Brighten Our Living Room~
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

Our 23 year old daughter, Jamie, and her boyfriend, Adam, are down from Lake Tahoe for a visit. Jamie and Adam met here in Big Bear when they were both working for the local ski resort.

Their love of snowboarding and the outdoors led to their moving to the Lake Tahoe area, where they get serious snowfall every year, and where, in the warmer months, they find plenty of places to hike, camp, and pursue Adam's other passion, fly-fishing.

Adam's best friend got married yesterday and they came to Big Bear be part of the wedding.

The pictures were taken yesterday morning in between breakfast, showers and getting ready for the wedding.

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