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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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My Wishes For The New Year

Melinda In Vancouver

Normally I don’t make New Year Resolutions. But this year seems different somehow. This year I feel there are more things that need to be made right – with much higher stakes and greater urgency than I’ve ever felt before.

This year I want to make public my feelings, my wishes for the New Year – so that I can be held accountable for working to change them. Actively and effectively, working to change them.

My Wishes For Change In The New Year:

1. There are wars raging around the world. Palestinians and Israelis are escalating their fight. India and Pakistan are at each other’s throats. All over Africa people are dying from AIDS and other diseases, genocide, war and persecution. There are many severe worldwide human atrocities, and they must change. I can’t fix them on my own. But I can make a difference. And I will.

2. Climate change is the biggest and most everlasting crisis of my time. Entire species are dying in great numbers, impoverished people around the world will be devastated more than they are already, soon this amazingly beautiful and unique planet will become much more chaotic and brutal. So we must significantly alter our personal, political, and corporate lifestyles – because they are not sustainable. This issue is not something to be overwhelmed by, because it is far too imminent to do nothing. We must do all we can to stop the planet from warming. Because we can never go back, and right now we’re losing precious time.

3. There are many root causes of these issues, and I can help change them. Wars happen for a number of reasons, including desperation, deprivation, power, lack of compassion, greed, poverty, a finite energy supply, and naivete or lack of awareness. I will do everything that I can. For instance: I can help spread awareness and provoke action, I can encourage compassion, and I can support people, businesses and NGOs who work toward sustainable energy, redistribute wealth and health and power, and help generate kindness and compassion.

4. On a more personal level, I need to be able to support my family while my husband goes to school in the fall. So the pressure is on me in the next few months to find a way to make money while fostering change. What I find may not be exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it will be a big step in the right direction. Full speed ahead toward finding sustainable work that sustains the world!

5. Of course there are smaller things, too. For instance, I will work to: Spend more quality time with my family, become more compassionate and live more sustainably myself, manage time more efficiently, and learn more about issues and ideas that I want to understand deeply.

It’s time to take myself out of denial, away from the paralysis of thinking that these things are beyond my reach, and that I can’t possibly change the world. I can and I must. Not alone, but with others, I can make a difference. And I will. Now is the time.

Throughout the year I will consult this list. I will work toward each of these wishes, sometimes with big steps and sometimes with baby steps, but always working toward them. In this way I will solve a little bit of the world’s problems this year.

Next year, I will solve a little bit more.

What Are Your Wishes For This New Year?

What would you like to change, to solve, to make better? What’s on your resolution list?

THE GROWING CHALLENGE: I Picked A Pepper In December!

December Pepper!

I picked this pepper from our fire escape garden just before the snows hit. I left it to ripen on the vine, just to see what would happen. It turned out to be a strikingly beautiful, fragrant, and delicious orange pepper!

Tomatoes and Herbs In First Snow

Our tomatoes produced right up to the first snow. Our geraniums and nasturtiums lasted until then as well. Most of our herbs have survived the snows: sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme, catnip, and oregano.

Pepper Overwintering Indoors

And… surprise! I brought in the pepper plant, to see if I could overwinter it indoors. So far, it has survived the shock of coming into a warmer, drier, and darker place. I wouldn’t say it is as happy as it was outside, but it is still alive. We shall see!

What’s The Growing Challenge?

The Growing Challenge

There are currently 182 people who are a part of this challenge. Head on over to The Growing Challenge Page and check out what it’s all about.

Ok, Go For It!

Do share – how is your garden?! Are Northerners finding much to harvest? And if not, are you finding locally-sourced foods at your markets, deliveries, and/or groceries?

Recipe: Delicious Winter Squash Souffle

Winter Squash Souffle

I promised a friend that I would post more recipes from the old blog, and this one seems very timely! Certainly if you’re eating local foods this winter, no doubt you’ll have encountered some squash and run out of ideas. This recipe is delicious, if I do say so myself. And it’s fairly simple, too! Enjoy….

Continue reading Recipe: Delicious Winter Squash Souffle

How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

The youngest, opening his first Christmas presents

The youngest, opening his first Christmas present

The hazardous snowy conditions, combined with precarious economic situations, remarkably altered the tone of our family’s holiday celebrations this year. There were fewer gifts and more hugs. There was more caring, more homemade food, more focus on the children and more emphasis on good conversation.

The snow brought us all together, as we phoned each other all morning trying to figure out whether each of us could make it, and who was picking up whom to minimize cars on the perilous roads. When we finally made it, the Frangelico-infused coffee warmed our tummies as we watched the snow fall from the skies and coat the earth. All of the food served was homemade. All of the gifts given were filled with extra thought and care.

Family Christmas Celebration

One of my relatives only had $200 for gifts this year, so she gave half to each of her two favorite local charities, saying, “we’re all so lucky that we have everything we need.” My grandfather, who often gives each person in the family a check for Christmas, kept most of his money in his dwindling investments this year and instead gave a bit of cash to each of the youngest kids for their savings accounts.

There was far less wrapping paper and plastic wrap in the trash this year. Because there were fewer gifts, but also because my mom wrapped each gift she gave in a reusable grocery bag. Matt and I wrapped in reused paper and cloth bags – or we didn’t wrap at all.

We kept most of our traditions, but sometimes they were switched a bit due to the snow. For instance, we didn’t gather on Christmas Eve because the roads were too icy – so we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas night, with my sister and her husband participating via speaker phone. But these switches actually made the holiday even more meaningful.

Grandpa, Marion, and their Great, Great Grandson

These are difficult economic times for many of us, and the snow made our streets unsafe, but there sure were some wonderful side effects to both of these elements this holiday season. Did you have a similar experience?

How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

Were there fewer gifts, more hand- or home-made? Was there a greater sense of togetherness?

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, Everyone!

From our family to yours, please have a wonderful,

relaxing, safe, simple, and joyous holiday.

With much love and kindness,

Matt & Melinda

(and Ellis & Raisin!)

Recipe: Homemade Hot Buttered Rum

Delicious Hot Buttered Rum

My family has made hot buttered rum over the holidays for as long as I can remember. You know, from that dried stuff called “Hot Buttered Rum Mix” at the liquor store? Well, until this year, that is! Matt and I perused the internet and created a wonderful recipe that is so much better than store-bought mix. Plus, much like homemade cranberry sauce, this recipe is incredibly easy!

Enjoy this drink that warms the tummy and soothes the soul…


Continue reading Recipe: Homemade Hot Buttered Rum

Surviving Snow In Seattle

Seattle in Snow

My apologies for a long absence here! It has been quite a crazy couple of months for Matt and I. I’m still recovering from a horrible virus I contracted while staying with Matt at the hospital. It has turned to a sinus and ear infection, which is oh so painful when it’s coooold outside! But Matt is doing well and is mostly recovered, and we feel very lucky.

Here’s our building in the snow – yes, it’s called “The Snowdon”:

Snowdon (our building) in the Snow

Crunchy Chicken wrote the other day about how Seattle shuts down in the snow. We don’t get snow very often here – maybe once a year if we’re lucky – so there are no snow ploughs. No de-icing trucks. Our airport virtually shut down the other day because they ran out of de-icing fluid! And, as might be expected, Seattle drivers are not so good in the snow. Our roads are littered with abandoned cars, trucks, and buses. It is a sight!

Incidentally, the picture Crunchy posted is about 2 blocks from our apartment. Fortunately, all the children in those two busses hanging over the freeway were able to get out safely.

Our Neighborhood in Snow

But Seattle is beautiful in the snow, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful time to relax, to stay home and safe while drinking tea or hot buttered rum. It brings neighbors together, as there are groups sledding (and even skiing!) together down steep closed streets, people are helping each other push cars to safety, smiling at one another as we shiver walking down the street, laughing at dogs in coats….

Lots of Dogs With Coats in Seattle!

Ellis, our rescued pup from Orange County, California, is … not quite used to the snow and doesn’t know what to make of the fact that his grass and bushes have disappeared. He sinks to his belly, generally looks sad in the snow, and prefers to be at home, snuggled up with his “sister” on the couch. Raisin, who has probably never seen snow either, is generally fascinated from inside, but is also very content to snuggle with Ellis…

Ellis Miserable In The Snow

Raisin Looking For Ways To Climb Inside

Ellis and Raisin Snuggling

I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are snuggled up and warm this holiday season. Thank you for reading, and please be safe!