Saturday, January 26, 2013

the second semester and a bowl of granola

Tomorrow afternoon I head back to university for the second semester of the year, my fourth semester as a student. When it concludes I will be half way done. Half way

And my wish was granted: I wanted another proper snowfall before I went back. It happened yesterday into early this morning, and in the evening the sun was out, bright and brilliant. So I took a walk, took my camera, and had this song echoing in my head all the while. 

I made some provisions for my return to school. Among them, a batch of granola, adapted from Stephanie Congdon Barnes' recipe:

Simple Granola
6 cups rolled oats
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (I used flax and pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1 cup honey and/or maple syrup
Dash or two (or three, if you dig salty with your sweet like I do) sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Place a baking pan (at least 9 x13—I actually use our big roasting pan) over medium heat on the stove top. Add the oats and toast, stirring for a few minutes. Add the coconut, nuts and seeds and spices and continue to toast for a few minutes more until everything begins to brown and become fragrant.
Warm the honey and maple syrup in a small saucepan until liquid. Pour over oats mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes (it depends on the size of the granola batch and the size of the pan). Check every 5-10 minutes or so and give it a good stir. Allow to cool and store in an air-tight jar.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

woodberry kitchen

Yesterday evening I had some very fine local fare.

A lovely lady who is like my aunt though we're not related took me down to Woodberry Kitchen for supper. The good stuff that made it's way onto our plates came from nearby sources, from farms and from the sea. For the winter months the restaurant cans and preserves relishes, sauces, tomatoes, syrups, etc. The food was artfully concocted and composed. We got a seat on the balcony and could look down at all the happenings below. Not long after we arrived a song that makes me happy started to play.

It was an absolute treat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There aren't many books I would say everyone should read. Often that's too much of a generalization. I adore To Kill a Mockingbird, it's a classic, etcetera - but I don't think there's much to be gained by forcing it upon everyone. I'd say the same for the poems of Emily Dickinson and Mary Oliver, the works of Virginia Woolf, and Howards End.

But everyone should read Eaarth, by Bill McKibben.

This book was passed on to me by my mom and I'm yet part way through it. For one, it's cleverly written. For two, it makes it absolutely, undeniably clear just how much we've altered the only planet we have. Global warming or global "weirding," as I once heard it called, can seem an abstract concept (especially when you step out your door at noon and it's 19 degrees I did today). McKibben takes away all the vagueness, and it's a little scary, but we only have ourselves to blame.

And so I think that means we can work to fix it.

I lately came across a blog called the No Trash Project and am enjoying going through the archives. It chronicles the efforts of one lady who is trying to live a life that produces no waste. And while that may seem a simple statement, when you begin to think about it (think about what and how much you put in your trash can each day), it's an immense task. But she's up to it; she's doing it. Her weekly waste crate photographs I really like. She has one small (wooden) crate of throwaway things that is never pictured full.

In his book, McKibben makes the point of saying that we have altered the Earth to such a degree that it is a different planet than it once was (hence the title). Consequently, we have to live differently now. It was fortuitous that I found the No Trash Project when I did. It depicts a different way of living, going against the current.

So if you keep a reading list, you now have two things to add to it. I don't say this lightly: Read them soon!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

around the table

Lunch at Juliana's in the Village, a local farm to table restaurant, for my brother's fifteenth birthday.
There was a whole grilled cheese menu, spicy tomato soup that put all other tomato soups to shame, and goat cheese cheesecake.

Friday, January 18, 2013

secret smoothies

During the summer months - when it was hot and I was tried from a morning at the farm - smoothies became one of my favorite snacks. Lately though I've been making them a bit differently than I used to: now, I put veggies in them.

It's one thing if I enjoy them. But a few weeks ago I put a 1/2 cup of raw spinach in a smoothie I made for my eleven year old brother. Upon taking a sip, he didn't notice. I thought I was being so crafty, so sly. (He knows now and was only mildly impressed.)

So here are the basic ways I sneak vegetables into smoothies. Depending on how I concoct it, one glass can sometimes contain two to three servings of fruit/veg.

Banana smoothie base:
3 ice cubes
1 banana, peeled
1/4 - 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 - 1/2 cup water (or milk of any kind)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

Toss everything into a blender and give it whirl until the ice is chopped and everything is well combined. Add veggies if desired.

Vegetable additions:
Spinach → slight change in taste, no change in texture if when blended.
Raw broccoli → change in taste noticeable, texture becomes gritty.
Lettuce → makes smoothie bitter, no change in texture. 

To disguise the veggies, add:
Spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves)
Nut butter
Raw/whole nuts
1/4 - 1/2 cup other fruit (frozen blueberries and strawberries work well)
fresh orange juice in place of water or milk

Add desired vegetables and disguises and blend for another 1 - 2 minutes, until there are no longer any chunks of anything.

(Above, my breakfast smoothie containing lettuce and peanut butter, paired with toast from here.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

ice garden

Yesterday morning I woke - jumped out of bed nearly - and found the ice-drops and ice-fingers created overnight. It was so cold outside they lasted long into the afternoon. 
They were lovely, but a disappointment. I want snow. Oh, I want snow. 

(I've realized the fact that I do not have to shovel said snow when/if it arrives - thank you Dad, thank you younger brother - may influence my desire for it.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Seeing: A friend from school, and going here

Hearing: new terms like DPN, cast on, and garter stitch as I begin to learn to knit. 

Tasting: soup for dinner, three days in a row.
(Black bean, then their soup, then curry.)

Smelling: a world that got a slight reprieve from the bitter cold; a hint of spring. 

Feeling: tremendously grateful. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

ethical clothing: definitions

What makes a garment ethical?

It seems to me there isn't any exact definition, which is understandable since ethics are subjective. But that - and the fact that our society isn't completely in gear when it comes doing the best environmentally and socially - makes consuming mindfully tricky.

Because there is also sustainability, which from every definition I've heard means the intersection of social equality, economic honesty, and environmental consciousness. So which should one shoot for? Uphold your ethics or sustain? Or both? Or do the two overlap? I am still working all that out.

And so I made a list of what buying mindfully means to me. It's by no mean exhaustive, and as I learn more it might evolve. At this point in time though, these are my own guidelines for navigating the world of wearables:

Vegan: No animals were harmed. No feathers, fur, or skin.

Fair trade: The makers were hired by someone else who treated them decently and paid them decently. For this there is a proscribed set of standards.

Second hand/Vintage: Buying something already worn, giving it a second (or maybe third or fourth...) life.

Handmade: This could be interpreted different ways. I take it to mean pieces of clothing that you or an independent person (many of the designers on etsy) made. Could be sewn, knit, crochet, etc.

Environmentally sustainable/conscious: The processes that went into to growing the material and making the garment or accessory were all calculated to be environmentally friendly.

Recycled: A new piece was remade from other pieces or a new piece was made of materials that were once other objects that were previously used. (I'm currently in the process of reading Cradel to Cradel, which makes it apparent that "recycled" isn't as simple a definition as we suppose.)

sources: here/here/here

Monday, January 7, 2013

on experimenting in the kitchen

I think many people are afraid to experiment when they cook. Several times now I've been standing in the kitchen when my mom was in the middle of making or planning a meal and she realized she was out of an ingredient. Just use garlic scapes instead, I might say. Or: I doubt it matters if you leave that out. Or even: Wing it (on Christmas Day, when twenty-one people are expected for dinner...).

I seldom follow a recipe to the T. When making a yeasted or sourdough bread I follow the instructions as though they were a magical incantation that I must recite perfectly. Otherwise, if I don't have enough cumin all is not lost; I'll substitute curry powder and maybe throw in a little cinnamon. No mushrooms? Well, we do have eggplant. The consistency is about the same and it's going in the food processor anyway.

And then there was banana bread this past week. I started with this recipe, which I've made on several occasions. Then I went into our cave-of-a-baking-cupboard and discovered there was no whole wheat flour. (I refused to bake with white.) However there was barley...which is technically a whole grain, I figured. So I substituted that. Then we had no vanilla. Oh well. It got left out entirely and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg thrown in its place. Forty minutes later the bread came out, not as pretty as Sarah Britton's, but just as delicious as every other time I've made this bread.

And to think I could have been stopped in my tracks because I couldn't conform to the recipe, forced to make something else or nothing at all.

When people say they "can't cook" I have to refrain from rolling my eyes. Can you read at or above grade level and do you have all your five senses intack? Yes? Then you can cook. It isn't about perfection, it isn't about replicating something you saw on the glossy pages of a cooking magazine. It is about your taste buds, your sense of smell, your eyes, your ears, and the feeling of something on your tongue and in your belly. In most cases, recipes are guidelines.

In her TEDx talk Tamar Adler speaks about this beautifully: How to be a clever chef. How to look at cooking differently.

And if you think you can't cook, I suggest you read Ms. Adler's book: An Everlasting Meal. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

on beauty and benefit

If I have a new year's resolution it is vague. Something like: I want live in a way that is more in line with what I believe. Regardless of how cliche that is, it's the notion I've had roaming around in my head for weeks. 

One part of it is what I consume. Meaning, not just want goes into my mouth but also what goes into my closest and drawers. Lately I've become more concerned about this things I buy, specifically my clothes and personal affects. Through a friend of mine, I found out about this book, and although I knew that certain things about the Western world's clothes economy were harmful to the rest of globe Safia Minney's exposé opened my eyes further.

The bangles above were a Christmas gift from my mother. They were made in Nepal by women who are rebuilding their lives. They're only jewelry - pretty, shiny bracelets that I love to wear because they jingle on my wrist - but they helped women worlds away. Why can't every part of my attire do that? Or how about clothing made of organically grow cotton, processed and packaged in a way that doesn't leave a scar, or a growing infection, on the planet? These aren't question I normally ask myself when shopping. Cost, color, and cut come first; egocentric concerns come first. They are my clothes, but as I was told when I was a child: "You are not the center of the universe." 

With all of this in mind, I put together an imaginary outfit composed of items that are environmentally and socially friendly. And beautiful too. The dress and leggings above are from Patagonia and Horny Toad, both of whom present themselves as being aware of their practicesThe bangles and scarf are fair trade and made in India. The striped flats come from soleRebels in Ethiopia, the only WFTO Fair Trade Certified shoe company.

This planet and the people on it matter to be immensely. I think the way I act and the way I dress should be a reflection of that. And so this is the beginning of a series of posts on wearables that are as good as they look. 

dress from patagonia/leggings from peopletree/scarf from block shop/bracelets from lydali//flats from solerebels