Putting the green in holiday greenery, with a pop of red

There is a lot of greenery in holiday decorations, but not a lot of green.

  • Our neighbors have left their Christmas lights on all night long since before December.
  • UPS has been bringing a package to the neighbors nearly every day since Black Friday. Inefficient deliveries means online shopping isn’t more environmentally friendly than driving once to the mall. (How about a discount if you opt to lump all your household’s purchases spread out over several weeks into a single monthly delivery?)
  • Single-serve aluminum baking pans and disposable champagne glasses are designed for holiday office parties or hosts who can’t bother to cook and then wash dishes afterwards too.
  • After the flurry of unwrapping, the mounds of paper, ribbons, bows, and probably a little kid’s already lost new toy, are whisked up in a pile for the garbage.
  • Unwanted gifts, notably the ugly-on-purpose white elephants, are given for a chuckle, then tossed.
  • The everyone-must-have-it-and-so-shall-I item is purchased at all cost, only to be relegated to the back of a closet stuffed with last season’s trends. A lady paid $300 for a Hatchimal in an online auction! That much money can buy a whole chicken coop set-up with a flock that will lay edible eggs every day all through next Christmas.

This year, our first living in the United States, we wanted to make at least a two-person dent in America’s Christmas-time consumption. We went for a hike in the forest while everyone was stuffing themselves silly at Thanksgiving, and the next day picked up free pecans straight from the trees while everyone was shopping on Black Friday, purportedly to help bring businesses out of the red. For the greenery, I didn’t need to spend green; I just had to look outside.

Navidad 2011 in Jardín, Colombia. Photo credit: Carrie Cifuentes

I hadn’t had a proper backyard garden since we lived in Jardín, Colombia, where every vividly painted balcony had a little old lady stooped over with a watering can. It didn’t matter if the pot was an empty pop bottle, as long as you grew pretty flowers in it. And everyone did. Gardening in Jardín was effortless: year-round mild temperatures, fertile soil, abundant water.

Growing corn on either side of a mandarin orange tree in our backyard in Jardín. Photo credit: Carrie Cifuentes

Texas is a whole different beast. It’s like riding a bronco. I really, really, wanted to see at least one bright red tomato popping out of that tangle of green branches, like Rudolph’s nose if he ran into a pine tree, and so I hung on as big ol’ Texas weather bucked with all it’s got: a drought in June, 100-degree days in July, a rainstorm-a-day that brought fungus in August, aphids in September, daily tickling sessions to help pollinate in October, nightly tucking the plant to sleep under sheets for frost just at fruit-set in early November, and numbly stripping the branches of any tomato bigger than my pinky fingernail before the hard frost in the teens in December.

I missed my Rudolph moment, but green ripened into red in the dark cabinets and exploded with homegrown flavor. After that first juicy bite of lost summer, I made my peace with winter’s closure of the growing season and yanked off the tomato cage. I guess I wasn’t entirely at peace looking at unopened flowers and still had the bronco-buckin’ grip that can snap metal. That broken cage released my creativity, and with a little redneck ingenuity (duct tape) the upturned trellis became an upcycled tree.

Coffee capsule/tomato cage 2016 Christmas tree. Photo credit: Carrie Cifuentes

Tinto in two forms helped with the rest of the decorations.

1.) Tinto as black coffee: Empty espresso capsules became dangly bells that let out a dainty ring against the sides of the tomato cage. This is our fifth year of hanging the same Nespresso capsules (and hanging the same hand-sewn stockings) on a miniature Christmas tree, which back in Colombia was made out of fresh bamboo branches each year. We rescued the capsules from the trash bin of an office that worked with and drank a lot of Nespresso.

2.) Tinto as red wine: Empty bottles will spell out J-O-Y to my visiting nephews and nieces learning to read (it’s my middle name too). The letters were cut out from the cardboard of a cracker box. The twine had held up pole beans in the backyard. The red marker and gold ribbon were discarded by previous tenants. Three evergreen clippings came from branches that overhung a nearby walking path and were due for a trim. The wine came at a cost, but we’re happy to be still celebrating monthly anniversaries.

Joy in a bottle. Photo credit: Carrie Cifuentes

Thank you to the coffee and wine growers for contributing to our year-round enjoyment of these beverages and our year-end holiday decoration.

Thank you to the tomato growers who will sustain us until next summer’s crop.

Thank you to those who also choose to find peace and beauty in the simplicity of a more sustainable seasonal celebration.

Thank you to my readers and fellow writers for nourishing my mind with your inspiring ideas and encouraging words.

Now bring on the holiday desserts! (Thank you to the cocoa growers, the vanilla growers, the almond growers…)

Seasonal greetings from Tinto Tinta Translations!

¡Feliz navidad! Photo credit: Carrie Cifuentes

Cycle to Recycle

To celebrate America Recycles Day, last Saturday the 12th I participated in the Bicycle to Recycle bike tour of Denton’s recycling center.

The good folks at the community bike shop Qerencia gave us tune-ups before hitting the rail trail. They need a new rental space, and I apparently need a new back tire.

Coffee sacks and baby grands

Trash-turned-into-treasure was on display, like this Rwandan coffee bag repurposed into a rustic dress.


Among other “how could they have thrown that out?!” objects, the environmental educator had seen a baby grand piano crushed into smithereens. It saddens me to see so many tossed belongings that didn’t get sufficient curb alert. I proposed having an alert sent out to thrift stores like the philanthropic Ruth’s Room before it goes into the trash compactor.

Another idea is a neighborhood collection site for unopened food and usable clothing, akin to the Little Library movement. Perhaps old kitchen cabinets or an entertainment center (go ahead and toss that TV at the e-waste site and grab a book) could be salvaged for this purpose. What have you seen in your communities to repurpose perfectly usable goods that people just trash on move-out day?

Our 20-odd group of adult cyclists gathered on the scale at the solid waste compound and clocked in at around 3,000 pounds, about half that of a single SUV Hummer, a monumental waste.


Greased bike chains and Rusty Tacos 

Feeling good about our individual weight and invigorated by the exercise on the ride back to downtown, we scarfed shrimp and brisket tacos by Rusty Tacos, which were fortunately neither rusty nor recycled, as in regurgitated (100% post-consumer…ingredients?). For a truly Tex-Mex feel, we had our picnic lunch on Mexican blankets spread over the square’s lawn.


On the courthouse steps, a group of musicians provided folk and bluegrass tunes, as they do every Saturday. Denton vibrates music, down to the musical note bike stands that dot the downtown square.


Daily ways to reduce our trash impact

The latest innovation in my home was to get a recycling canister twice as large as the trash bin. It works! Have you tried a visual trick to promote reuse and reduce garbage?

Here’s a quick ABC of my small actions for food-related waste:

A: Avoid plastic bags. Wash out produce bags and bring cloth tote bags to the grocery store

B: Bring Tupperware to restaurants or group meals where there’ll be leftovers instead of a Styrofoam (not recyclable) take-out box

C: Compost kitchen scraps. Meet your neighbors or ask on a local gardening forum for nearby composters.

Specifically for coffee:

A: Avoid disposable cups. Bring your own ceramic mug or to-go thermos.

B: Buy beans in bulk and a reusable coffee filter for Keurig-type machines, instead of disposable capsules.

C: Compost coffee grounds. Meet your neighbors or ask on a local gardening forum for nearby composters.

What will you keep out of the landfill tomorrow (and every day!) on America Recycles Day?

Guardando objetos y botando palabras

Los objetos aparecen en nuestras vidas cuando más los necesitamos. Me di cuenta de esto mientras buscaba las cosas para amoblar nuestra nueva casa, en un nuevo país. Lección # 1 fue que hay que dejar que las cosas fluyan de su vida cuando ya no les puedes dar uso (o empacarlas en tus maletas para un trasteo a una tierra lejana). La mentalidad de acaparamiento aparentemente bloquea la aparición mágica de los artículos necesarios.

En aras de la sostenibilidad y la frugalidad, he estado yendo a las ventas de garaje y tiendas de segunda mano que son tan comunes en los Estados Unidos, la tierra de la abundancia material, pero tan ausentes en Colombia, donde se comparte más con los miembros de la familia.

Enredando la escritura en redes sociales

También he descubierto que, desde la última vez que estuve en los Estados Unidos hace una década, Facebook ha desplazado a Craigslist para las compras virtuales de artículos usados.

Craigslist requiere una verificación por correo electrónico. “¿Seguro que esto se ve bien? ¡Es su última oportunidad para hacer cambios antes de publicar!”

Facebook te permite publicar inmediatamente. “No piense más. ¡Dele clic en enviar ya!”

Así que las personas han dejado de pensar y simplemente publican. O tal vez piensan que están publicando en español apropiado, y sinceramente no saben cómo escribir mejor. ¿A qué echaremos la culpa?

¿El declive en normas de redacción?

¿El aumento en el uso de teléfonos inteligentes?

¿La dependencia de las funciones de autocorrección?

¿La baja calidad de la educación pública?

¿El ritmo acelerado de la vida en el 2016?

¿La actitud perezosa al digitar de “Seguramente ellos entenderán”?

rezpeto a la educasion
Crédito: http://desmotivaciones.es/4239913/Ver-el-en-el-tuenti-de-un-cani

Subiendo los fotos y bajando a la educación primaria

Hay que parar este ataque digital contra el español correcto porque:

a.) Duele la cabeza tener que descifrar todas las iteraciones posibles de errores ortográficos para averiguar lo que estás vendiendo. Una publicación mal escrita no aparecerá en los resultados de búsqueda por palabra clave. Sin una foto adjunta, no tendríamos ni idea de lo que está a la venta. No volvamos a los niveles de educación primaria con libros de puros dibujitos.

b.) Difunde la mala educación. Cada vez que ves algo escrito de la forma equivocada,  refuerza esa ortografía incorrecta en su cerebro, hasta que finalmente lo has visto mal deletreado tantas veces que imaginas que está bien escrito.

Basta ya con las quejas aburridas y deprimentes. ¡Ya viene la diversión (a costo de los malentendidos)! Espero que estos errores de ortografía te den razón para reír… y de consultar el diccionario de aquí en adelante.

La granja de las letras: B de burro y V de vaca

A diferencia del inglés, en español se escribe como se dice. Fácil, ¿cierto? Pero suele pasar que la C suena como el S. No basta con decir C, sino C de casa. De igual forma con los gemelos rebeldes de B de burro y V de vaca.

La H a veces habla, pero hay veces que se queda muda. La ele se duplica en LL y se complica con la Y, también conocida como la I griega, para no confundirla con la G.

Mira como se enredó la cosa. Estoy aquí para desenredar letras, quitar comas, agregar puntos finales…o suspensivos.

Trataré las letras en parejas (C/S, B/V, LL/Y) en el siguiente post en este blog. Te dejo con un adelanto de otras problemitas que he visto en las redes sociales, sobre todo los grupos de compra y venta en Facebook.

N  vs. M + V vs. B

“buena musica buen anviente”

Me toca adivinar: ¿Quiere decir adviento? ¿Es una fiesta de navidad? ¿Quizá aviente? ¿Ofrece un aventón con buen sistema de sonido en su carro?

Corrección: Buena música, buen ambiente.

Tildes + Uso de mayúscula + Espacio entre letras

“dedicada Alá enseñanza y formación”

Me toca adivinar: ¿Es un grupo educativo musulmán?

Corrección: Dedicada a la enseñanza y formación. (de futból, no de lenguaje)

Puedo hacer una revisión sencilla de la ortografía y puntuación, o una edición más profunda para sugerir una mejor redacción y estructura. Envíame un correo electrónico o un mensaje a través del formulario de contacto.

Que los objetos valorados fluyan dentro y fuera de sus vidas cuando más necesitan adquirir o liberarlos, y que todas sus publicaciones de venta sean fácilmente comprensibles.

Traducción del post original en inglés a español por Carrie Cifuentes, autora y traductora de Tinto Tinta Translations.


Keeping objects and trashing words

Objects pop up in our lives when we need them most. I’ve realized this in searching for articles to outfit our new house, in a new country. Lesson #1 was that you have to let things flow out of your life when you can no longer use them or take on the plane with you to a far-away land. The hoarding mentality blocks the magical emergence of needed items.

In the interest of sustainability and frugality, I’ve been going to garage sales and thrift stores that are so common in the United States, the land of material abundance, and altogether absent in Colombia, where sharing is limited to family members.

I’ve also discovered that, since I was last in the U.S. a decade ago, Facebook has displaced Craigslist for online second-hand shopping.

Craigslist requires an email verification. “Are you sure this looks okay? Last chance to make changes before it goes live!”

Facebook lets you post immediately. “Don’t think about it. Just hit enter!”

So folks have stopped thinking and just posting. Or maybe they think they’re posting in correct English, and truly don’t know how to spell any better. What shall we blame?

The decline of writing standards?

The rise in smart phone usage?

The dependency on autocorrect functions?

The low quality of public education?

The fast-paced lifestyle of 2016?

The “eh, they can figure it out” lazy attitude to typing?

4 sail
Graphic credit: http://www.catholicsistas.com/2012/03/suffering-lent-and-st-joseph/

This digital onslaught against proper English needs to stop because:

a.) It hurts our brains to play Scramble with all of the possible misspelling iterations to figure out what you’re selling. A misspelled post won’t appear in the search results. Without an attached photo, we’d be clueless as to what’s for sale. Let’s not revert to picture-book levels of education.

b.) It spreads the miseducation. Each time you see something written the wrong way, it reinforces that spelling in your brain, until eventually you’ve seen bad orthography enough times to think it’s the right way.

This post (post spell-checking) would be a dull and depressing rant if I hadn’t found a sparkle of comedy in the 4-sell adds (that would be “for sale ads”).

I hope these spelling blunders give you a chuckle. If not, consult your friendly dictionary.

“Box of plates and bowels.”

Dishin’ up some guts!

(should be bowls)

“Iso a free play pin for my little man”

Momma, may I suggest better toys for an infant than a sharp pin? Ouchie!

(should be pen)

“Military rocksack

Sticks may break my bones, but the stones in this bag will just give you a sore shoulder.

(should be rucksack)

“Womens batbroom set, soap despense”

Dispense with the bats around your soap with this handy broom.

(should be bathroom and soap dispenser)

The errors aren’t limited to commerce. Unfortunately, spelling mistakes penetrate business-minded professionals and other interest groups.

In an entrepreneur group:

“What’s stopping you from growing your business? Have you already started or are you stalking?”

I’m a proofreader stalking your post instead of working.

(should be stalling)

On a gardening site:

“Id guess your soul is missing some nutrients.”

You could have gone to heaven if you’d only taken your vitamins.

(should be soil)

On a crafting site:

“If you cut off the clips you can use them for ceiling potato chip bags”

Bring me some snacks from the attic, will ya?

(should be sealing)

English is a complex language, full of homonyms and homophones that you must heed in order to succeed at communicating. If you tend to confuse trios like to/too/two, or you don’t know,where,to,insert,commas,or,periods, then let me unravel your writing for you.

I can do a quick proofread for common spelling and punctuation errors, or a deeper editing to suggest better word choice and structure. Send me an email or message through the contact form.

May treasured objects flow in and out of your lives when you most need to acquire or release them, and may all of your sale posts be readily understandable.

Donkeys in Ohio, a cool mule in Idaho (and just pigs in Iowa)

While the elephants march across stage at the Republican National Convention in Ohio and fuel a media frenzy among Democratic donkeys, a humble mule plods up the mountains of Idaho and churns out a heartwarming news story.

I come from the heartland of America. Minnesota is easy enough, but my highschool state is often overlooked and/or confused with others that have more vowels than outsiders can handle. The easiest association has always been agricultural. Iowa = corn, Idaho = potatoes. Ohio = where the river caught on fire and sparked a sputtering environmental movement.

In this story Idaho’s taters stay invisible underground, while its spectacular mountain scenery rises as a backdrop for a tropical crop: coffee.

Matt Bishop serves coffee brought into the Boise foothills on the back of his mule, in a true tribute to the way Colombian mules transport the coffee over mountains to be exported across the Americas.

Don’t be fooled by all the fancy, unnecessary accent marks in Café Mulé. This is a humble operation. The mule, named simply Richard, is led by an earnest-faced young man in overalls and a straw hat. Matt Bishop dishes out cups of coffee to hikers, mountain bikers, and other nature enthusiasts who need recharging. And he doesn’t charge them a cent.

Naturally, the Forest Service, when they caught wind of his generosity, booted him out of federal land for not paying for a permit. Logically, it’s an upfront to our capitalist society’s values, but ironically it was private landowners who offered Bishop stand space, a place to take a stand against greed and embrace slow-paced enjoyment of our national lands.

Café Mulé continues to pour free coffee to hikers willing to go off the beaten path, wait for a freshly prepared cup, and perhaps give a tip for his passion.

Back to Ohio and its burning river (and inflammatory attacks among candidates), I’d like to make two suggestions for a more environmentally friendly pour-over preparation:

1.) A reusable cone like the Brewologist stainless steel dripper that doesn’t require disposable paper filters.

2.) The hikers should follow the pack-it-in, pack-it-out philosophy and bring their own thermoses to not have disposable styrofoam cups.

Happy trails to you, and may coffee make them all the merrier!