Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I don't normally do resolutions. Or rather, I usually spend the entire month of December thinking of potential resolutions, and then I half-heartedly commit to some of them, but only in my own head. However, I really am a sucker for tradition, and I also have a real appreciation for the symbolic clean-slate that is a new year. As such, I've decided that, not only am I going to start really making resolutions, but that they're also going to be goal oriented, and that I'm going to write them down for accountability's sake.

So, with that, these are my resolutions for 2012. 
In 2012 I will:

Spend more of my life in the real world, and less of it on the internet.
     -15 miles a week (minimum) for the first 6 months
     -21 miles a week (minimum) after the first 6 months, or once I've worked   back up to that mileage, whichever comes first.
     -Run at least five 5ks
     -Pick a half-marathon to run
     -Run (my first!) half-marathon
     -Weekly blog update about my running
          Yoga 5 mornings a week
           3 fitness classes a week
           Wii fit. I have it, I should use it more.
     -My thesis!
     -Three professional papers
     -Blog about my general life and my resolutions. Where noted I'll do updates on my resolutions on a specific interval.  I also plan to check-in here quarterly to do summary check-ins. I've already set my calender up to remind me.
     -Letters-- real letters, not just emails-- to people I love. Minimum of one letter a month, to each person on my list.
     -I have 140 books sitting in my "To-Read" stacks. I will read 100 of them this year, plus whatever I'm assigned for school. I will write reviews of each book I read. 
     -Reviews will be posted on Goodreads, and cross-posted here.
     -Make a weekly meal plan for 5/7 dinners a week
     -Make at least 2 recipes a week inspired from one of the myriad cookbooks I have, but never use.
     -Grocery shop based on my meal plan, cut down on impulse buying food. (Even if it's beautiful, beautiful produce.)
     -Blog about my meal plan successes and failures. (Monthly?)
     -Clean out my closest
     -Donate 2 boxes of stuff to Goodwill, twice this year
     -Clean and organize my hard drives
     -Get rid of books that I've finished reading and disliked (or didn't actively love.)
     -Get rid of any cookbooks I haven't used at the end of the year.
     -Improve my sewing skills
     -Learn to knit (or crochet)
Finish Anthropology MA, graduate
Begin Master in Nursing Science

Maybe I'm being unrealistically ambitious, but I don't think so. We'll see.

I'm counting on you to help hold me accountable. What are your resolutions for 2012?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An All-Local Christmas Dinner!

First, some background:
In November I signed up to participate in the Dark Days Challenge. The idea of this challenge is to get people cooking at least one meal a week featuring sustainable, organic, local* and ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blogging about the cooking experiences. I signed up with great enthusiasm, because after a year of living in North Carolina, I'm still in love with how easy it is to eat seasonally and locally here even in the dead of winter; especially given what a difficult time I had creating SOLE meals during the height of summer when I participated in the One Local Summer challenge back in 2008, while still living in Alaska. 

Sometimes, I miss Alaska so much that it hurts. I can't wait to get back, and there are no better carrots, potatoes, wild berries or wild salmon than those found in Alaska. However, one thing I love about NC is the rich abundance of local, sustainable food that is grown year round here (even while I'm disappointed at how hard finding many things can be in Eastern North Carolina given that it's an agricultural intensive region.)

Technically, this challenge started on November 27th, however, that happened to coincide with my end of the semester madness. Though I have made more than one SOLE meal a week since then,  this is the first time I've managed to actually get myself together enough to document the meal, and compose a post. So, a full month into this challenge, I'm finally getting around to posting. Hopefully, next week, I'll remember to document more than one meal.

Christmas Dinner 2011

I love the holiday season a sort-of ridiculous amount. If you know me in real life, this is not news to you. In fact, even if you know me just through the internet, this is likely not news to you.  This is our second December in North Carolina, but was to be our first Christmas here since we couldn't go back to Alaska to spend it with my family, or to Seattle to spend it with Travis'. I spent a lot of time feeling rather sorry for myself about this fact, until I realized that, for the first time ever, I could prepare a SOLE Christmas dinner, while also keeping a fairly "traditional" menu:

Beer Baked Ham
Mashed & roasted sweet potatoes with garlic & onions
Roasted broccoli & carrots
Whole wheat biscuits
Plum Cake with Honey

One thing about living in a region that produces food year-round, is that it doesn't feel like Christmas to those of who are used to white-Christmases. I attempted fool my psyche into the seasonal spirit, despite a total lack of snow on the ground or nip in the air, through madly baking and cooking on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

Still, as I prepared the ham for baking, and heard Mr. Heat Miser singing in the background, I had never really hated him more. :-)

A while back I got a ham from Circle Acres Farms (in Silk Hope, NC, 128 miles from Greenville) via my local CSA, Locavore Market.  I am a heavily vegetarian leaning flexitarian, as such I don't eat or cook a lot of meat. Mostly, I got the ham because I knew Travis would appreciate it. I stuck it in the freezer, and sort of forgot about it for a while. When I pulled it out to cook it, I was sort of shocked. If you'd asked me before if I'd ever seen a ham in it's pure, unadulterated, uncured form, I would have told you that, of course I had. I think I would have been wrong. 

I had never before seen a ham that looked this, and I'd certainly never cooked one before. A bit of Googling later, I decided that cooking the ham in beer was the way to go.

As is always the case, we had a lot of excellent beer from which to choose, however, we didn't have any of it great amount. I couldn't decide which to sacrifice to the ham until I remembered that we still had several cans of my favorite beer in the entire world, Sockeye Red IPA, that were partially flat due to damage they sustained while flying in my checked suitcase this summer. This beer certainly doesn't count as local under any sense in this challenge, however I chose to allow them for a few reasons.  Because the beer was flat, we were never going to drink them, and they were essentially only good for cooking. Using them in my Christmas meal also served as a bit of an homage to my home state "local"devotions, and since I personally carried the beer back from Alaska, in my suitcase it felt a bit less like true import. Finally, I'm opting to count the beer as a spice, since it's the only way I seasoned the ham. It's a bit of a stretch, I recognize that.

I put the 5lb bone-in ham, skin side up in my large dutch oven, and poured two cans (24 oz) of beer over it. I put the lid on, and placed it in my oven set at 325°. I let it bake for 2.5 hours before removing the lid and letting it cook for another hour, until it had reached an internal temp of 160°.

I washed four sweet potatoes, pierced them, and placed them in a pyrex baking dish in the oven along with the ham. I roasted them until they were soft, and then pureed them with half-and-half from Jackson Dairy in Dunn, NC (90 miles from Greenville.) I diced half a sweet yellow onion and three cloves of garlic from Locavore market, and mixed that all together in a casserole dish.

While the ham and sweet potatoes were baking I washed and chopped two carrots, one pound of broccoli, and three cloves of garlic-- all also from Locavore market. I put them in small dutch oven, sprinkled them with salt and olive oil, and set them aside, to roast after I'd taken the ham out of the oven.
I had stoneground whole wheat flour from The Grain Mill in Wake Forest (80 miles from Greenville) that I used along with milk and butter from Jackson Dairy to make Christmas tree shaped biscuits (plus some standard round ones.) Sadly, I think I forgot the baking powder, because the biscuits failed to puff up like the should. They were good still,  just small.

(At this point, my camera decided to stop working. So the remainder of the photos on this post will be from my phone.)

For dessert, I used plums I had purchased this summer at the farmer's market, and frozen, to make my friend Becca's plum cake. It's her favorite cake, and a tradition in her family. She gave me the recipe last year, which I made for Travis' family at Christmas, and decided that I liked the cake so much it was going to become a Christmas tradition in our house too.  In addition to pureeing frozen plums, instead of using jars of plum baby food, I made a few other adjustments to the recipe, so that I could stay within the local guidelines. Normally it's made with regular flour, but I had ground oat flour from The Grain Mill, and decided to use that instead. I also substituted local honey in place of the sugar. The eggs came from Strawberries on 903 in Winterville, NC (10 miles from Greenville) and I omitted the oil, since it was already pretty moist from the honey and eggs. This resulted in a cake that was much nuttier and denser than the original, but it was quite good.  It's also normally baked in a bundt pan and sprinkled with powdered sugar. However, my bundt pan was MIA Christmas day, and I opted to drizzle it with honey instead of powdered sugar.

All-in-all, it was a fairly simply meal. But it was quite enjoyable, not to mention that it was really nice being able to make it in the middle of winter, using essentially all local ingredients, most of which were fresh. There's no way I could have pulled this off while still living in Alaska. Everything local would have been frozen for a few months, and I'd have had to make a berry pie since we can't really grown much fruit in Alaska.

Like I said, I really miss home. I really miss the food options I do have in Alaska, but I will most definitely miss the wide variety of local foods I can find in NC, once we move back to Alaska.

*What does local mean?
"Traditionally, local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius. Winter time is more difficult in many climates, especially if you’re new to eating locally, so my default winter definition is 150 miles. You can choose to make your radius smaller or slightly larger as you need. Typical exceptions to the local requirement are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. If you’re making fewer or more exceptions, please note that on your first post."
For the purposes of this challenge, I will primarily be abiding by the 150 mile rule. However, I will likely count any NC goods as "local" while imposing the 150 mile rule only strictly if venturing outside of NC, either to SC or VA, for products. I don't plan to make any other exceptions outside of those addressed, however, should an exception arise, I will address it (and my reasoning) in a post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Card

Season'S Greetings Frame Holiday
Turn family photos into holiday cards at
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Are you on my card list? Should you be? Do I have your current address? If not, send it to me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Misogyny, Exploitation and Disrespect

These are three things that are so deeply rooted in our culture that it makes me almost literally ill to think about it.

I just read this  piece about a 14 year old girl who, yesterday, became a trending topic on Twitter. This happened after she was recorded, without her knowledge or consent, performing oral sex on a classmate. (At this point, I'm assuming the oral sex was consensual, but I don't know, and I would not be surprised to learn that it wasn't.) The tape was then uploaded to the internet, again without her knowledge or her consent, and her name was attached to the video!

Twitter users then responded, in large part, with with vitriol. All of which was directed at this girl.

I can't even begin to express how angry and frustrated this makes me. The fact that this girl is receiving all of the blame, ridicule and hatred for engaging in a sexual act just makes me sick. Especially when you consider that:

1. She engaged in said act with another human being; a human being who, though he is her peer, is receiving no ridicule, blame, or hatred.
2. She did not give permission for the video to made, let alone for it to be made public. Those who made the video, and made the video public are receiving very little ridicule, blame, or hatred.

What is wrong here is NOT that this 14 year-old girl performed oral sex on a classmate. I don't want to have a discussion about whether or not 14 years olds should be having sex. Whether I think they should or not, and whether you think they should or not, doesn't mean they aren't going to. "Should or not" is irrelevant.  I remember being 14. I remember how grown up we all felt, and I remember having 14-year-old friends who were having sex.

14-year-olds are having sex, and they will continue to have sex, regardless of how adults feel about it.

Instead this conversation should be about safe, respectful sex. This conversation should be about teaching teenagers that, if they are going to engage in sexual acts, they should do so in a manner that is safe and respectful.

This conversation should be about how we as a society blame girls and women for being disrespected by boys and men, and what we as a society are going to do to change that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I'm getting ready to submit an abstract to present, essentially my thesis work, at a conference in the spring with some classmates. I'm not very creative in the titular department, and was having a really hard time coming up with even a lame title to go along with my abstract.

I asked Travis, in a totally tongue-in-cheek way, to help me come up with a title. I should have been prepared for the hilarity that was about to ensue, but I wasn't.

Here are a few of his gems:
  • Midwives Know What they're doing, Fuck Off, Doc
  • Social Justice with a Grassroots Movement. Women Taking Back their Vaginas
  • Suck on This: Home-births Should be Legal
  • Anyone Can Deliver a Baby: Even Midwives!
  • Pull the Sand out of your Vagina and Let the Midwives do their Jobs
  • My Vagina's not Sick. Let me Keep it Out of the Hospital
  • Birthing is not a Disease, Cuntfaces
  • Labia Tears and Afterbirths all in the Safety of your Own Home
  • Childbirth in Rural NC: How the Woods aren't Just for Beavers that Build Dams
  • I Don't Tell you Where to Spooge, So Don't Tell my Vagina Where to Poop
  • My JJ, not your Way-Way
Oddly enough, he did also basically come up with the title I decided to use, though I subbed out the word "vagina" in favor of the word "birth." Because let's face it, no matter how much Travis is obsessed with the word "vagina," birth is about more than just vaginas.