Holidays 2008

Dear Friends & Family,

It’s that time of year when packages arrive in splendid reds and greens!

But sometimes giving and receiving presents can seem like more of a burden than a gift: What do you do with yet another ugly sweater, or that book you’ll never read?

We still enjoy giving gifts, but we feel that most of the people in our lives don’t want for much. So this year we decided to give a gift to some people who really need it more than any of us. We hope you’ll agree this is a worthy cause (and we know you won’t miss the fruitcake we were going to send instead).

Peace on Earth,
– Mark & Velma

P.S. In the following pages, we thought we’d share with you a few red and green things — some books, products, websites, and one recipe — that we enjoyed in 2008. Click the left and right arrows, or the numbers below.


Kids get to play; entire villages get safe, sustainable drinking water.

Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, killing 6,000 people a day. In many parts of rural Africa, women and children must spend hours each day hauling water, and often that water is plagued with disease.

PlayPumps International has set up over 4,000 innovative water systems in schools and communities in ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kids play on the merry-go-round, and clean, drinkable water is pumped from a well to an above-ground storage tank. It’s that simple!

This year, we chose to honor our friends and family by donating $350 to help build a new PlayPump.

Watch the video at left, or learn more at

CleanWell soap

CleanWell is all-natural, non-toxic, and is made from rapidly renewable botanical sources. Best of all, it’s free of Triclosan, the antibacterial ingredient in nearly every other soap, but which is toxic to fish, amphibians, and possibly us!

  • Kills 99.99% of germs
  • Safe for kids
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • Certified cruelty-free

Learn more at

Available at Whole Foods, Target, and Amazon.

Picked by Mark

The Female Brain
Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Men and women really are different. This book explains the physical/evolutionary reasons for the differences.

» Author’s site
» Amazon

Picked by Velma

Kale Salad

Strip leaves of kale off stems. Cut up one bunch of kale into small strips. Toss with two cloves chopped garlic and 1–3 tbsp each of olive oil, Bragg’s amino acids (tastes like soy sauce but better for you), and rice vinegar. The longer it marinates, the better it tastes.

Optional: Boost the protein by topping it with a hard-boiled egg.

Even Mark likes this one.

Made by Velma

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril
Paul Malmont

Telling a tale straight out of the pulp era — quite literally — Malmont populates his story with the actual writers who created the square-jawed heroes such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Conan, and others.

Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard all take part in this yarn.

» Author’s site
» Amazon

Picked by Mark


Velma turned me on to this really good site full of all kinds of info on recycling used motor oil, winterizing your compost pile, what to do with used cooking oil and grease, and tips on recycling toys. Lots of good, practical info on this website.


Picked by Mark

Little Heathens
Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
Mildred Armstrong Kalish

Reading this, I felt like I was talking to my grandparents, who were little kids during the Depression. Little Heathens gives a real sense of the values and spirit of rural folk.

» Author’s site
» Amazon

Picked by Velma

Give a Gift/
Plant a Tree

Having a redwood tree planted in someone’s honor makes a nice gift. I’ve done it for several occasions in the last year. It’s only $50, and it’ll last more than 50 lifetimes.

P.S. This is where Velma works.


Picked by Velma

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow

The popular BoingBoing tech writer paints a near-future that could really be only as far away as next Thursday. A terrorist attack in San Francisco turns the city by the Bay into a police state where our teenage hero must outsmart the principal, the cops, the surveilance cameras, and the Department of Homeland Security.

» Author’s site
» Amazon

Picked by Mark

Herb spiral

I took a couple of urban permaculture classes this fall. In them, I learned about herb spirals, and at Thanksgiving, we made one in our garden.

An herb spiral is a great way to maximize space in a garden by going vertical. It also provides a niche for many different herbs that have varying water and sun needs. So far, our herb spiral has mint, parsley, garlic, thyme, marjoram, sage, and oregano.

You can learn to make one too.

Picked by Velma

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Barbara Kingsolver

In this book, Barbara Kingsolver and her family vow to eat local for one year, growing as much food as they can. The book includes great recipes and, of course, Barbara’s evocative prose.

» Author’s site
» Amazon

Picked by Velma

Theo Chocolate

Our friends Jana and Chris took us to Theo Chocolate in Seattle, which makes USDA Organic and Fair Trade certified choclates in flavors such as Coconut Curry, Chai, and Fig, Fennel & Almond.

You can get Theo at REI, or on the company’s website.

Picked by Mark


Your $20 subscription to Good magazine lets you choose from one of 12 different charities, and every penny goes to that organization. You can even give more if you want.

The magazine is spectaularly well designed and covers issues such as the state of the planet, transparency, markets, and more. They have a fantastic website too.


Picked by Mark