Monthly Archives: November 2011

Back in the U.S. of A.


A week has passed since I left a country that came to feel like my second home. That’s enough time to have compiled a list of things I love about being in my original home.


My Daddy. He keeps me in stitches. He’s recently begun dating a woman who seems just his type, blonde, petite, 61, sensitive, and outgoing, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Antiques, old houses, handmade candles, beer, and carnivorous tendancies are just some personal things they share in common. How adorable it is to watch him get nervous hours before they meet, to answer his questions about what to wear and how soon to call or respond to an email.

Yes, ma'am, that's my Daddy


Wine. I brought a bottle of pisco with me across country borders. There was already a case of Old World wines awaiting me though, and pitifully it didn’t take me long to remember just how to drown myself in it. I am, in fact, writing this post over a glass of Chianti. The pisco I’ve decided to ration as I won’t find more of it until Enero, or January. I’ve happily shared pisco maracuya and pisco limeade with two neighbors who drank it so fast my heart fell. Pisco is an art; it should be savoured.


Go go Veggie Deli Turkey!

Veggie food. We went grocery shopping a couple days after I arrived. Of course I filled the cart with myriad dairy products: two types of cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream. Daddy also put in some string cheese, which my hips unsuccessfully dissuade me from. For the finale, of course, come granola cereal and granola bars, and tofu deli meat (turkey, in honor of Thanksgiving). Within the next two days I shall whip the kitchen into a frenzy and cook one or two dishes suitable for the pending winter.


Hot water: There’s more hot water than I can use while showering in a bathroom big enough for a person from China, from India, and from Peru. How luxurious to wash my face and hands again— and dishes— in steamy, soapy water.


Egregious television: The flat screen television offers too much for me to disregard. Behold, HGTV and MSNBC! Yesterday, recovering from consuming wine in abundance, I plopped myself on the pomegranate red leather couch and watched about four hours of HGTV, including Dear Genevieve, my favorite HGTV show. Then I discovered the beauty of Current TV as a proper station, more than the snippets of Countdown with Keith Olbermann podcasts I’d seen in Peru. A whole station devoted to leftist propaganda? Joy! Earlier in the week I forced Daddy to watch Bill Clinton on The Colbert Report; the latter he likes, the former…not so much.



As you can see, wine, television, long talks with Daddy, and eating have comprised most of my week here. Dad will be gone hunting for the next two days though, during which work will fill my days. There’s writing to do, Spanish to practice, a stack of magazines to pour through. God don’t let me engordo, or fatten up, and please give me strength to keep up with my writing goals.




Urban Agriculture: Green Trend de Riguer, Final of Three Parts


This is the third of three installments of an article I originally published in Perspective magazine.


Growing Detroit
Detroit’s Adopt a Lot program serves as a partial solution to the city’s poor economy. Citizens there are adopting vacant lots, of which the city has 40 square miles, and turning them into small urban agriculture sites, primarily growing produce. Denizens’ increased interest in farming on their own lots or adopted ones has precipitated a reconsideration of zoning codes.


‘The city already owns about 45,000 vacant parcels,’ says Kim James, director of the Department of Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environment. ‘One program for large-scale commercial farming has been batted around here. A lot of people are farming but it’s not technically legal because there’s no ordinance actually set up for it, so we’re figuring out how to incorporate (urban ag) into our ordinances.’


A project known as Hantz Farms exemplifies the problematic side of urban ag’s zeitgeist: growing demand without proper legal infrastructure to control it.


Hantz Farms’ founders are supposedly working with Michigan State University to create the world’s biggest urban farm, which will possibly employ hundreds of people, keep money circulating locally during its year-round operation, and contain a wind-energy-producing outlet. The project’s first-phase plans comprise more than 70 acres of underutilized and abandoned properties around Detroit. But Tina Bassett, a press representative for Hantz, says there’s a different side of the story.


‘We are allowed to plant or landscape, but not permitted to sell anything we grow on the property until the City gives us permission,’ she says. ‘Until that issue is resolved, Hantz Farms cannot move forward. We are cleaning up the five acres and will prepare it as a demonstration site.’


Detroit does, however, have its own farmers market district and other successful, established programs. One of which is the Garden Resource Program. In 2009, it encompassed more than 260 community gardens, 55 schools, and 555 family participants. They received 48,554 seed packets and approximately 209,345 transplants, which in turn helped them to produce thousands of pounds of food. Participants sell their produce at farmers markets, to numerous restaurants, and to retail outlets across the city. Weekly farmers markets are found at or near churches, university campuses, and in many other locations. That means thousands of people are eating better, learning to fish (so to speak), and circulating money within the community.


‘If you spend a dollar in a locally owned store as opposed to spending that dollar at Wal-Mart, that dollar will circulate through the community two to three times more than the Wal-Mart dollar because that dollar will go back to Arkansas. The same is true of local agriculture. If you spend money on locally produced produce it helps that farmer,’ says Ed McMahon, fellow with the Urban Land Institute.


Is it trendy or sustainable?
So is urban agriculture a return to the agriculture and even dietary practices of yestercentury, when humans only had access to certain types of produce seasonally?


‘Yes and no,’ says McMahon. ‘We’re going to look back on the last 50 years as an aberration in terms of development. There’s a suburb called Rockville outside of (Washington) D.C. In its infinite wisdom years ago, the city built a huge enclosed mall in place of the entire downtown. Now they’ve torn down that mall and rebuilt the downtown. I think we’re going to get back to that. Almost all food is provided in large industrial farms and industrial farming isn’t going to go away, especially because of the growing population. It’d be difficult to feed our forthcoming population growth with just locally grown food, but there is a boom in the localism movement. You’ll see a growing share of our food provided by locally sourced agriculture but it will never replace industrial agriculture.’

Four Unconventional Tips to Finding an Inexpensive Holiday


ATW presents another guest blog post this month.


Holidays are by no means cheap at the moment, yet it seems that even in the middle of a recession, most of us aren’t ready to give up what we see as an ‘essential luxury’. It seems that we are prepared to allow eating out, fancy clothes and fast cars fall by the wayside but when it comes to that two-week beach holiday, being in a state of near-poverty has no bearing on our decision to click the ‘Book Now’ button.

It is this intrinsic desire for a holiday that has kept the fire of the UK’s travel industry alight while other sectors falter. It is no secret that the travel sector is in relative rude health at the moment and the insatiable desire of Brits to escape the UK’s unreliable summers for some hot weather has kept travel agents and tour operators rubbing their hands with glee.

Of course travelers are still on the lookout for a bargain, and, while going on holiday is important, finding one for a knockdown price is arguably even more important. There are ways to get a great value holiday, and by ‘great value’ I don’t mean staying in a hostel miles from the nearest attraction. Here are four ways to bag yourself a bargain holiday.

Discount sites

Holiday discount sites are aplenty but picking a reputable one is essential. It’s all very well getting a holiday for pennies. But if the location and accommodation are lacking, you’ll feel cheated by the amount of time you’ve wasted rather than the amount of money. has some excellent deals. The only downside is that you have to book just a few days before departure to get the best deals. That’s ideal if your employers are flexible, or if you’re planning to travel on your own. Another great discount site that’s fairly new on the scene is

Work in Travel

If you really love travel, it may be worth a considering a career move in order to support your passion. Not only will you be doing something you love (or at least something related to what you love), you’ll likely reap the benefits of cheap– or even free– holidays. If you’re really lucky, and depending on your role, holidays may even be compulsory to familiarise yourself with certain destinations or hotels.

Go Camping

Accommodation is without a doubt one of the most expensive aspects of a holiday, so why not take your own? Camping is an ideal way to get in touch with your surroundings and experience nature much more closely than you could in a hotel, apartment, or cottage. Camping doesn’t have to mean staying in your own country. Why not drive to a neighboring country and pitch up? The opportunities are endless for the freedom of camping.

Enter Competitions

Not interested in paying anything for your holiday? Go completely free by entering competitions. In competitions you can win free holidays– providing you have the patience to enter them in a scatter-gun like fashion. is an excellent site with a plethora of holiday competitions, but don’t disregard competitions on daytime television, and newspapers.

Joe is a travel blogger who loves a bargain. He’s hoping to get cheap Spain holidays for himself and his friends this year, and will be using some of these tips to do so! You can follow him on Twitter @backpack_joe