Hi! Here is a little information about me.
I last updated this web page in November of 2018. I am 52.
My life-partner was a man named Jan Wolter. He died early in 2015. We have three kids, Arlo, James, and Corbin. When I wrote this, Arlo was in college, James was in high school, and Corbin, who has autism and severe epilepsy, was in fifth grade at a local elementary school that does an amazing job of taking good care of him.
I do computer programming and website design when the kids are at school. When the kids are home, I am usually watching them. Or cooking.
My hobbies include vegetarian cooking (gluten-free!), growing my garden, reading SF, playing friendly board games, and starting friendly online communities.
I have a recipe website called Valerie's Recipes, where I post awesomely yummy, healthy, delicious, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan recipes. I figure that only a small percentage of the population is at all interested in this type of cooking -- most people don't eat that way. But among the small population of people who do, this recipe site is a trove of interesting and yummy recipes.
I started the Ann Arbor parenting e-mail list. It is huge, and yet somehow the group stays friendly and supportive, even as it has grown. I originally thought the group would be too big if it got to be 30 people. Yet, when I updated this page, it had 2,737 people. I think maybe that is way too big, but still I am curious to see what happens next. Years ago, the list was a great place to have a deep discussion about parenting. Today it is more of a place to find quick questions and answers. I love a deep and thoughtful discussion, so I miss the old days when those were more common there. But I think in these days of brief tweets, online thoughtful interactive discussions have grown harder to find.
I started the Ann Arbor gardening and seed-swap e-mail list. It has grown to be a great place to ask gardening questions, find someone to take the extra plants from your garden off your hands, or get help with identifying a particular plant.
I started the Gluten-Free Ann Arbor celiac support group, for people who need to eat gluten-free food. When I wrote this, it had 824 people and is a good place to ask questions about gluten-free food, find a local gluten-free pizza, or talk about staying gluten-free at school or work. Lately the group is more active on the Gluten-Free Ann Arbor facebook page
I re-started the local chapter of the Association for Women in Computing when the group was about to be de-charted for inactivity. I am not involved with it today, but for a while I was the chapter's president. Later that chapter grew to be one of the organization's largest, though today it is no longer active anymore. I think this group grew to be so big and strong because it meets a real need.
I was on the board of directors of my kids' former school, the Ann Arbor Learning Community, for six years, including a year as its president. The year when I was the president was "the year when everything happened" -- but we stayed afloat and succeeded at doing all of the things that we were juggling, ideally with a lot of input from the school community. AALC is a local nonprofit charter school located here in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I love to cook. I have been a vegetarian since 1987, though after 28 years as a vegetarian I did some experimenting with eating fish, because it seems to make a difference to my health. We have some food allergies in my family, so I've gotten to be very good at gluten-free dairy-free cooking. I love to adapt recipes to be lower in fat and healthier while still totally yummy. Reading about nutrition is one of my hobbies. My favorite publication for that is Nutrition Action Healthletter.
Years ago, I took an organic gardening course. Some of my favorite things to grow in my garden are: cypress vine (a fast growing, long skinny vine with feathery leaves and bright red flowers), basil, giant cleome ("spider flower"), columbine, red chard, and yarrow. I am a big fan of composting, and of automatic watering systems that use a hose timer to send water through efficient drip-irrigation lines to my plants. I've had an automatic watering system on my vegetable garden for several years, and another one on the hanging baskets in front of my house. It makes a huge difference to the happiness and health of my plants -- plus I can go away on vacation and not need to worry about watering.
I don't get to do as much reading as I used to. Some of my favorite authors are Anne McCaffrey, Pamela Dean, Steven Brust, Janet Kagan, Douglas Adams, Michael Pollan, oh and lots more! Musically I like mostly-female vocalists who tell interesting stories in their songs. Some favorites are: Dar Williams, Christine Lavin, Billy Joel, Weird Al, and especially the Indigo Girls.
We recently got solar power at my house. I am delighted with it! Click on that link to see my answers to frequently asked questions about solar power.
Since college I have taken several classes. In 2002 I took a series of classes in weaving -- that is, making real fabric on a big loom with foot pedals and all sorts of gear. This was a fun series of classes, blending art and math. I hand-wove the placemats that my family used everyday for years. I place a lot of value on items that are homemade rather than storebought, especially if the person who made the item put a lot of time into making it. I have also taken classes in aikido and organic gardening.
I collect cookbooks. My favorites are the hand-drawn ones from the 1970s, such as the original Moosewood cookbook. I made my favorite recipes into a homemade cookbook of my own favorites, in honor of my sister and her husband, and then eventually turned that into the beginning of my Valerie's Recipes website. I love reading a number of recipe blogs, such as Chocolate Covered Katie, Vegan Richa, and Feasting On Fruit.
Lately I listen to a lot of podcasts. This link describes the ones I like the most, and how to listen to them.
I grew up in New York City, where I went to a really wonderful science high school. I loved it there. It fostered in me a lifelong love of science and well-researched information.
Politically, I am very liberal. A long time ago made a list of all of the political things I cared about. I matched that to the views of the various parties. I expected that my best match would be some obscure party that I had never heard of. But instead I found that right down the line I match the views of the liberal Democratic party. I am proud to be a liberal. I adore president Barak Obama and am hoping to see Hilary Clinton follow him in the White House. I care deeply about abortion rights, help for the poor, human rights, and treating all people fairly.