Decisions decisions…

April 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

Oh my poor blog.. I’ve neglected you shamefully. I’ve been too busy with just living life lately to find time to document it. I’m okay with that..

Hey, Help us decide where to live!

We’re down to two options:

Sarasota FL

Siesta Key Beach

or

Hillsborough NC

Hillsborough NC

We’ve been going round and round on this with no decision in sight, so I’ve decided to go with a good old fashioned Pros and Cons list and solicit my friend’s input. Help!

Sarasota FL

Pros:

  • right on the beach
  • perfect year round balmy weather
  • humidity
  • Ringling School of Art and Design and New College are both in town
  • living within minutes of the kid’s grandparents (we currently have no family in state) *this is a big one
  • beautiful scenery
  • some of the best public schools in the nation
  • early morning kayaking
  • day boat trips to the keys
  • Disney World every summer (for the kids – errrr -not me..)
  • fancy yarn shop
  • year round gardening
  • lemon trees are weeds

Cons:

  • it’s in Florida
  • full of EXTREMELY rich people, weird rampant classism
  • heavy drug culture
  • nearest city has problems with gang violence
  • high cost of living
  • alligators
  • sharks
  • hotbed of rightwing insanity
  • white supremacists
  • run by cranky old people

Hillsborough NC

Pros:

  • Small town near a larger city
  • heavily wooded, lots of nature
  • every house comes with at least a quarter acre
  • artsy
  • lots of kid centric festivals and celebrations
  • awesome farmers market
  • within a few hours of the ocean
  • liberal

Cons:

  • I’ve never been there
  • somehow has a higher crime rate than Denver
  • no family in town
  • nearby city also has a very high crime rate
  • mountain lions
  • bears
  • schools only adequate
  • schools in neighboring counties so poor they don’t have text books
  • nicer houses mostly out of our price range
  • may be difficult to make friends in such a small town

Well, that’s it. Any pros or cons to add to the list? Begging for help from my amazing, discerning friends!

Thanks guys ūüôā

Getting the Best of It

June 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

A few years ago, digging around in a box of old books at a rummage sale I came across this gem:

Little House In The Ozarks: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler, The Rediscovered Writings

Little House In the Ozarks is¬†A collection of essays by Laura Ingalls Wilder published in various newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1925 on topics ranging from the war, the depression, and the morals of a nation, to bread baking, canning, and daily life on the farm. Not only are Mrs. Wilder’s essays filled to the brim with humor and good old fashioned common sense, but the lessons in good sense they impart are still relevant today.

I heard a woman yesterday, reasonably well off financially, complain about how she wanted to eat organic local produce, but that the high prices small farms charged weren’t fair. I wished she could read this essay:

Getting the Worst of It

March 1917

¬†¬†Whenever two or three women are gathered together during the winter, sooner or later someone would ask, “Are your hens laying?”

In one such crowd where town and country women mingled, I was very much interested and also amused by a conversation which took place between a country woman, and a woman who lives in town. Of course the inevitable question was asked, and the country woman replied that her hens were doing their duty.¬†¬†the town woman inquired, “What are you getting for your eggs?”

“Thirty cents.” ¬†replied the country woman.

“They make us pay 33 cents when we get them at the store,” said the town woman. “Why can’t you bring me my eggs?”

¬†¬†“I can,” said the country woman. “How many would you want?”

“Oh! bring me three dozen. Might as well save nine cents,” replied the town woman.

¬†¬† Perhaps I imagined it, but I certainly thought the country woman’s left eyelid drooped for an instant as she looked up at me, but her glance was so quick I could not be sure. Her reply was quick too

¬†¬†“Why! I thought you were offering me three cents a dozen more,” she said. The town woman disclaimed this in a tone of surprise, and the country woman asked, “How about dividing it?”

¬†¬†“Oh! I wouldn’t bother with it for that,” the other said in a tone of disgust.

¬†¬†“It’s less bother for me to deliver our eggs all in one place. We sell them by the case, you know,” said the country woman, and again I thought her eyelid dropped as she glanced once more in my direction. I wish I could be sure about that wink. It would make such a difference in the conclusions one might draw.

¬†¬†There, I said to myself, is the producer and consumer question in a nutshell with the real reason that terrible bogey, “the middleman” gets such a chance at us. Too much bother, unwillingness to cooperate and compromise, or in other words just plain selfishness is the cause at the bottom of all the trouble. The consumer wants something done about the high cost of living, but he wants all the benefit to accrue to himself. The producer wants something done to lessen the difference between the price at which he sells and the consumer pays, but he also desires what is saved to come his way, while the speculator standing in between smiles to himself, secure in his position because of this weakness of human nature. For the rest of us, the punishment fits the crime, and I am inclined to think we get no more than we deserve.

Now, I don’t think this applies to the many people in the US who legitimately can’t afford produce, let alone organic or small farm produce, but doesn’t this essay, dated 1917 give some clues about the situation we as a country are finding ourselves in today? With farmers barely making a living, and many folks barely able to afford the food they produce, it’s interesting to see the seeds of that problem germinating in Arkansas almost 100 years ago. If only we would have taken Mrs. Wilder’s lesson to heart then, I wonder how things might be different now? The growing number of people ¬†involved in CSAs and patronizing their local farmer’s markets gives me hope that though late, and born of necessity, people are learning that lesson yet.

I highly recommend this book to.. well, everyone, but especially to the homemakers out there. These essays are full of wisdom, humor and wit, but best of all, the personality of Laura Ingalls Wilder shines through, and she always seems to be reminding us that joy and happiness in life is worth the work of cultivation.

Okay, now you know it. I’m secretly Victorian.

Me and Pliny: All the best people are writing letters

April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Okay, this is not what I meant to blog about. The kids are napping, I had just finished getting my graphics together and was sitting down to write an interesting (and my how informative) blog post about kid’s nutrition and the modern food pyramid. I thought I’d check the mail before I got too immersed in the fascinating world of fruits and grains and… voila! hurray! hurrah! A letter from a pen pal!!

Yes, I have pen pals. No, I’m not in sixth grade. I love writing letters. I love searching out stationary, testing pens, enclosing poems and stories and finding little flat presents to tuck into envelopes. Best of all is imagining the little leaps of joy and surprise the recipient will experience when opening their letter and finding a little origami fish, or fancy paper, and a whole slew of words addressed just to them. I imagine it’s much the same as the thrill I get when I peep in the mailbox and see a handwritten envelope addressed to me. I can never resist a little happy dance, or at very least a little happy skip of anticipation. I wait (sometimes quite a while) for a quiet moment then sit down, open it carefully an lose myself in someone else’s world.

"dear mom, Niagara Falls is beautiful, Dave had a little accident.."

Pen pals are also a great outlet for the incurably nosey. I love to hear all the little details of other people’s lives. My favorite correspondents have been the ones I have the least apparently in common with, not only are they the most interesting, but we usually learn the most from each other as well. It can be difficult to find and befriend folks who are different than you. As people we all tend to lump together into similar groups based on age, style, etc. How much we miss out on! I love letters for the clarity with which you can see another persons point of view, another persons life; even if they’re not writing about it at all. A choice sentence has broadened and changed my mind more times than I can count, and a wider understanding of others is never hurtful in this world.

A great thing about pen pals is you don’t need to write about current events or great emotion for your letters to be relevant. My family cherishes the letters of William Grogan, our first non native ancestor, to his family remaining in Ireland in which he describes Boston as a swampy wilderness and tries to persuade his brother to come work on the pennsylvania rail roads with him. We’ve even saved letters from my great aunt to her boss. Before her letters she was just a name, after reading her letters she was my great aunt greta, who had been attacked by a dog as a girl and whose legs were scarred and deformed for life. She never married, but she was secretary to man at a concrete mixing company for 35 years, and she cared enough for him that she never threw out a line he wrote her; even a one line request for fresh coffee. She kept his notes in a tin box with her most important papers.

Correspondence has offered some of our most vivid first person slices of history:¬†poets, writers, artists, historians and philosophers, husbands and wives in war times, woman pioneers writing their families in the east, writers whose letters to friends snapped with wit before anyone even knew who they were. My pen pals are a poet, a bum, and a kindergarten aide, and we reveal ourselves and all the interesting little facets of our lives in every letter. Though we may be insignificant in ourselves, I like the idea of our decedents coming across a letter or two and imagining us as flesh and blood when we’ve long been dust. I treasure those ordinary and extraordinary people, past and present, who come to life through letters, and I thank them for leaving behind a bit of themselves for us to read.

Some of my favorite letters found online:

What a Dick: Pure wit with young Morrissey

Up in Flames: Pliny the Younger describes the destruction of Pompeii to his uncle from his vantage point right outside the city.

10,000 letters, boy those Victorians: The Carlyles, and everything about them.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Your mission today:

Step one: Write a letter. Make it fun, send it to your grandma, your acquaintance, your lady friend, or me!

Step two: Eye your mailbox gleefully and wait!

Hail Seitan!

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is pure gluten folks, so you don’t want to eat it every day, but it’s inexpensive, and for those of you who are recently vegan, it has a the “meaty” texture you may be missing in other protein sources. I tend to make this on those odd days that I just can’t get to the store, or our budget is running a little tight. All of the ingredients for basic seitan are probably in your pantry right now.This recipe is a little fancy, but is still made up entirely of basic pantry staples.

I went through much rubbery seitan trial and error before I discovered the one basic rule to edible seitan:

NEVER, EVER LET IT BOIL!

I cannot state this strongly enough. If you let the seitan boil, even for a few minutes, when you take the patties out of the pot they will deflate into little brown barely chewable rubber pucks. DON’T DO IT! I don’t have great luck with seitan on the stovetop. I’ve never been able to master the slow simmer, I suspect it requires some sort of gene for patience I’m just missing, I can’t see something simmering with out cranking up the temp a notch to speed things up. My solution? cook it on a low temp in the oven; out of sight, out of mind, plus no messy splatters to clean off the stovetop, and if you use a 9 by 13 pan you can arrange the patties in a single layer so no sticking.

Jess’ Basic Seitan:

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast

Cooking Broth

For water version:

  • 4-6 cups water
  • 3-4 bullion cubes (the salted variety)

For Broth version:

  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tbs Braggs or soy sauce

Crispy Fried Finish:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp thyme

Mix together all dry dough ingredients. Add the water and stir until all ingredients are completely mixed.

Kneed 3-5 minutes until dough forms a smooth round ball.

Roll the ball into a tube shape roughly the circumference  you want your patties.

Cut into half inch think rounds.

Shape rounds into patties by stretching and squishing a bit.

Now prepare your broth or bullion and pour it into a 9×13 baking pan. I like to add 2 bay leaves for a bit of extra flavor. Add your patties in a single layer and cover with tin foil.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Or if you stove runs hot try 325. You do not want the broth to be boiling heavily while it bakes.

Remove patties, slice em, dice em, or use the recipe below to fry em.

Remember to save your unused seitan in the cooking broth, and save your unused cooking broth for soup!

Crispy Fried Finish:

This is similar to the southern corn fried chicken my mom used to make

Preheat a large frying pan with a quarter inch of oil on medium heat. Mix all dry ingredients. Tinker with the amounts to suit your flavor and texture preferences. I have used all cornmeal no flour for example, and often omit the garlic powder and it still turns out great. You can dredge each slice in egg replacer or oil before dipping them in the dry mix, but I find it works just as well when the patties are still wet from the cooking liquid, plus that’s one less dish to clean when you’re done. coat each slice thoroughly in the dry mix and place in a single layer in the pan. Cook each side until just golden brown. Remove them from the pan and lay them on a clean cotton dish towel or two paper towel. Let them sit a moment and then flip them and let them sit again.

You should have a yummy crispy seitan, fried done and delicious and costing about 60 cent a patty. ¬†It’s fairly reminiscent of fried chicken, so if that gives you the heeby -jeebies, skip the frying step and try your seitan barbequed, baked, chopped into stirfry, or just rolled in nutritional yeast.

Enjoy!

Wee small books

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I love handmade chapbooks. I love the care and concern that goes into each one of them. I love the fancy paper, the interesting bindings, the variations of texture, size, shape and content. I love that the book itself becomes an extension of the art. It’s not just a medium, but a cohesive piece.

One of ¬†my secret joys is finding little ¬†chapbooks / art books and cuddling up in my big bowl chair with them in my few off minutes. Heavanly. Poke around online, see who’s selling them, hit up your local independent bookstores, ask if they have a rack for zines. You’ll usually be able to find something. Hell, make one yourself! (Then send it to me!) My favorites are usually the zines/chapbooks/artbooks that are being sold at about what it costs to make them; I’m a sucker for a labor of love.

I’m also really into the movement away from free verse that seems to be happening. You still see a ton of free verse obviously, I’m sure it still dominates the market in fact; but you also see a lot more variation into the more traditional and, modernly, esoteric. Real Haiku, Sonnets, Rhymed couplets; It’s all so interesting!

Here is my latest find

And a link to the author’s etsy store here

totally transporting

I have a chapbook of sonnets arriving from Spain that I’m rather Gleefully anticipating. Sonnets! If they turn out to be readable my heart will do a happy dance.

Okay people out there

  • Who are your favorite poets?
  • What’s your favorite chapbook/artbook/comic/zine/choice publication? Share some links!

SUPPORT INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING!

Easy Peasy Vegan Shortbread

February 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

Star Wars shapes optional

Ohh shortbread, yummm.. you are so flakey/crumbly/ buttery delicious!

What’s that shortbread?? You’re vegan? Get in my mouth!!

Note: Being vegan does not make this recipe in any way slimming or healthy. Just incredibly tasty.

I have experimented with hundreds (tens) of different shortbread recipes looking for one that converted well with vegan ingredients. It’s mostly been failure. I’ve had flavorless biscuit cookies, melted butter dough, and all sorts of marginally appetizing variations thereof. I finally happened upon this recipe at http://www.thejoyofbaking.com, modified it slightly and.. Revelation! Light buttery crumbly, can’t tell it’s not loaded with cholesterol goodness. We made one batch of these regular, and one batch with a little orange zest mixed in with the dough. Divine..

Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup earth balance, room temperature

1/2 cup  powdered sugar

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350

Beat the earth balance by hand or with electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar, beat until creamy again. Add vanilla, beat until etc..

creamed Earth Balance and sugar

In a separate bowl sift and combine flour and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed earth balance/sugar mixture slowly. Mix together until all combined. Form a ball, cover and place in the refrigerator for about fifteen minutes.

I need a pastry mat. Is that a real thing?

When dough has chilled, roll it out 1/4 inch thick. Cut star wars shapes, or hearts, or moons, or whatever. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheet and pop in the oven. Bake 8-12 minutes on 350.

Note: I bake 12 minutes at 375, but I’m at a higher elevation, and my oven’s a little wonky. I’m going with the original recipe’s bake time and temp. you may need to fiddle around with it a little.

Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating if you’d like a solid cookie. Eat earlier for a doughy one. Either way it is delicious.

Enjoy!

Out with the old..

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

And in with the new! I have officially trashed my blog from two years ago. Looking over it it was mostly a collection of  mediocre poems and anecdotes about spiders. Not really sure where I was going with that, but it was definitely fun at the time.

The only thing I wanted to save was this sort of stream of consciousness rant I busted out in five minutes one day after a trip to the zoo. I decided to save this one, not because it’s particularly compelling, but because it’s one of the only posts that didn’t mention spiders or show me drinking. In all seriousness though, it did manage to capture exactly what I did, and still do feel about animal captivity. I’ll post it here, for a while at least.

Caged Life

We went to the zoo today. Not something I normaly do. I don’t believe in caging animals and seeing them in their tiny enclosures being gawked at by us chattering apes bothers me intensly. Leaves me feeling sad and misplaced. Especially the ones who would eat us if they could, those of whom if we found ourselves in close proximety to we should panic, we should run, we should hold our lives in our breaths and know these moments may be our last.

I feel like I should tell my son, you see these animals? these are dangerous, you see this you motherfucking run. Not, you see the bear? How cute he is! You see the mama lion with her cubs? How cute they are! It feels like an insult to the truth of what we both are. It feels like a lie to their and our own natures.

Afterward you can stroll down to the zoo cafe and eat the animals you most admired. Have a buffalo burger! An Emu omelet! God truly gave us dominion over the animals. We are chosen see? Take a bite.

We cage them as though all mammals aren‚Äôt mammals. As though cages could draw lines inside us all to say ‚Äúlook, see how different we are?‚ÄĚ We place them in cages to diminish them, to seperate them from us, we make them small enough to put in the palms of our hands. We pluck the fur and the fear from ourselves as we cage them neatly, classify nature. We cage the stink of our sweat and fear and marvel together how closely we resemble the angels in our evolution. Finally, we are almost safe.