Thursday, December 25, 2014

Peace on Earth

The Christmas creche is a long-standing tradition at this Oakland home. Tradition yes, but not very traditional. It's a bit multi-this and multi-that, and all of it has meaning. 

Yes, the "shepherd" watching his flock is actually a caveman from a set of Pleistocene Epoch toy figures. Sadly, the mastodon and saber-toothed tiger wandered off years ago, although the woolly mammoth is still around here somewhere.

This year's flock is composed of mostly white-coated figures - no, not medical professionals - but sheep, goats, rams and lambs, poodles, polar bears and pelicans. Owning four stomachs is not a requirement for membership.
Here it is considered an additional benefit to have any number of deities and other religious VIPs participate in the celebration.

The Laughing Buddha is always in attendance, as is the trio of Kitchen Gods (at least I think that they're Kitchen Gods). No one has yet put a name to the Old Guy God (on the left in the photo), but he sure looks prayerful, so he is welcome too.
Finally, as a bow to the original Nativity story, our creche includes the serpent from the Garden of Eden. And a fighter jet that was found in the yard serves as a token for the state of affairs in the Middle East today. 

Each year when I set up the creche, I hope that the jet will not have a place in the scene. This year, I arranged the creche to the sound of police helicopters - a loud and sad reminder of the police and demonstrators battling it out in Oakland and Berkeley.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Holiday Shopping Idea

Yup, just one. "Cause these days, I pretty much only remember one thing at a time. Really, it's one thing, period, and forget the "at a time" part. So what was I going to tell you, anyway?

Lava-lava Painter
One of my most favorite places to "shop" is the Kiva website. Kiva is a micro-lending program which connects people with money (you and me) to entrepreneurs from around the globe who need a little support to move ahead. Yes, sometimes the words "poverty" and "empowerment" are thrown around, but really, it's all about shopping.

Here's how it works: you commit to a minimum loan of $25 (remember, it is a loan, not a donation. So unless disaster strikes, it is your money and you can get it back once the loan has been repaid. Or if you are giving this as a gift, the happy recipient can get it back.)

Next you go scroll through all of the proposals from interesting people in far-away places and consider which one(s) you plan to support. Shall I invest in a lava-lava (think "sarong") painter in Samoa who needs new brushes and paints? A rice farmer in the Philippines who requires additional organic fertilizer? Or what about that knitter in Bolivia who needs extra materials to make ponchos?

Poncho Maker
As I mentioned, once the loan is paid back, you may pull out your cash. Better still is to go back to Kiva for another fun shopping experience. We started with Kiva in 2007 with a $100 commitment. Since then, we have participated in 45 loans for a total amount of $1,150 lent out. We've never lost a dime on a bad loan (yeah, I know, there's still time) and only one was slow in repaying.

So you guessed it, I went with the poncho maker. Partly because the loan term was much shorter (shorter term = help someone else out with a new loan more quickly). But also because anyone who washes sand to earn extra cash probably has the gumption to make her business a success. And really, who could resist that hat...


For a fun read about a Kiva lender:
The International Bank of Bob

Photos: Screenshot from Kiva website (bad, bad girl - didn't get around to asking permission, yet)

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Season of Giving and Giving and Giving

December 5, 2014

It's December, and the small tromboncino summer squash has decided to go big. Big time. Although it was planted in May, and had all the light and sun and water to grow up big and strong, it really didn't do poo-poo. Until October. And then, finally, we all had to jump back.

Last week
Starting in November, the plant has been pushing out new baby zucchinis for some very fine eating. I'm not exactly sure who has been doing the pollinating - the bees from the hive have long since gone to bed for the season, and I sure haven't been out there with my little Zucchini Sex Goddess Wand.

I'm not complaining, mind you. Just wondering though: where were you in July?

This week, so far