Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Work, dreams, house renovations

It's a random collection of stuff today.

If I go to the gym today, I will finish week 7 of the couch to 5K program, which in the almost year since I started it has now changed its name to Run 5K. I am writing this down in hopes it will be accountability for doing it.

I caught an error in percent vs. percentage points in a story on Monday night. Before I spent two years at my job editing financial news, I never would have caught it. Now I not only catch the error, but I get to teach future copy editors to catch that error.

I'm designing pages this week, nothing very exciting, but I'm remembering the challenges of making everything fit just right.

Points two and three remind me that every job and role I've had is important to what I'm doing now. I realize this sounds like a Rascal Flatts song, though maybe only to me since this week I bought tickets to see them in January.

I posted this on Facebook, but I have to share more of the story. I was at home on Tuesday because I'm working nights this week, and there was a knock on my door. There was a guy standing there, and he asked me (1) when I moved into the house and (2) when I was moving out. Apparently, he has had his eye on this house for four years. He gave his number to the last tenants for them to call him when they moved out. Obviously, they didn't, which I'm grateful for. Anyway he told he'd come back in July since my lease is up in August. It is a wonderful house and one of a handful of rentals in this neighborhood, which is the best in town if I you're asking me, but I don't think it would have occurred to me to go knocking on the door to try and rent it. He also said he wanted to rent it and then convince the owner to sell it to him. I was thinking, "You and me both."

Continuing on that point, I have no idea what happens for me after August, and most days I'm really comfortable with that. But in the event I stayed here, I would continue to rent this house. And though I doubt I'd (1) convince my landlord to sell and (2) actually stay here long enough to make it worth the investment, on a daily basis I think about what I would do to it if I owned it. Just this week, I was debating what color I could paint the bathroom (it's currently yellow) that would still look OK with the blue tile or if I'd have to take the tile out. I've already decided on painting the cabinets an off-white or cream and changing the hardware on them, and then painting the kitchen a nice sage green after taking down the wallpaper in the kitchen for this house I'll probably never own! This is another area where pinterest isn't helping.

I had a dream the other night I went on a date (shocking!), and my entire family and current boss were all at the same place. I also woke up that morning to check to see if my car was in my driveway because in my dream it was stolen.

The pictures from my brother's wedding were posted this week, and it's making me dislike my recent haircut even more. In other words, my hair looked great in those photos, and I'm hating it now that it's short again. I guess you only luck out once with getting your hair cut at the mall.

Friday, December 16, 2011

End of semester brain dump

A random list of things that have been going on in my life this week:

It's finals week, and apparently one way students avoid studying is baking. It's been treat overload in the newsroom this week. I even have cookies I need to get out of my house, but there is so much other stuff I don't think anyone would eat them.

I'm starting to feel like I'm on idea overload. I've spent more time on pinterest lately and keep seeing all these things treat/desserts to make. But then I remind myself it would just contribute to the last point. So I'm trying to either pin actual dinner recipes or non-food related things. One of my co-workers said the other day that she had never thought to use it for recipes. I guess I need to follow her to see what she pins because I feel like all I see is food.

Grading is harder than I expected.

Tuesday was my last night working with that combination of students. I was sad to see it come to an end. (And granted, every day this week is the "last," but there is a unique bonding over late nights at the paper.)

But it must be the end of the semester because I've been snapping much quicker than usual. One of those stuffed singing/dancing Christmas trees almost pushed me over the edge.

The TA I worked closest with all semester worked her last shift with me before she graduates today. Another student I'm sad to see go.


Last January, I downloaded the Couch to 5K app on my iPhone. I didn't really start using it until April. But I got distracted by the prospect of moving and then found out I was moving, quit the gym and then moved. I eventually joined a gym here, but struggled to fit it into my routine. Long story but I typically get to week 6, stop going to the gym and have to go back several workouts and work my way back to week 6 and the cycle starts over. On Thursday I finished the last workout of week 6, and I realized I have six workouts left and two weeks left in 2011 to finally finish the program. So that's my goal — finish this workout program before the end of the year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A picture post

It seems I very rarely post pictures on here anymore, but I have a few to share today.

First of all, I got several birthday cards, and I loved all of them. But there were two I wanted to share.

My best friend from high school is an artist, and she always sends these amazing hand-drawn cards. I think this one might be my favorite she's drawn for me:





And then this was sent to me by my parents. I thought it was pretty funny and kind of perfect. The inside says: Older and wiser, baby. Older and wiser.


While I didn't make it to my sister's for my niece's first birthday, through the wonder of Skype, I got to participate in the family party. This was just before she decided she didn't like getting her hands dirty with icing and cake.


On Saturday, I went over to a friend's house to bake and decorate cookies. We made a lot of cookies!

The friend that hosted us is an artist if you can tell by this tray of cookies.


I also went to a church Christmas party on Sunday night and then spent Sunday catching up on grading. And I couldn't get a picture because it was dark, but I came home from the grocery store on Sunday to find two huge deer just chilling in my front yard.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A birthday

Last week a friend and I were emailing, and she asked if I had plans for my birthday. I kind of played it off and said it was no big deal. But she directly told me I needed to be proactive for my birthday this year since I'm still getting settled here.

I realized she was right, and instead of being passive I took her advice and ended up having a really fun day.

First of all I made cake pops, which I haven't done in a long time (I tried a new combo I'll share later), and I took them with me to work to share with students and co-workers. I sit in the middle of the newsroom during the day, and basically, I gave out cake pops to people that wished me a happy birthday. It was a really fun game to play because I had students that don't really know me come over so they could get one. It just kept me entertained all day. And my co-workers sang happy birthday to me at our afternoon meeting, a little mortifying, but I guess you are supposed to be sung to on your birthday.

After work I went with my small group from church to a service project, and then I had invited them all back to my house for dinner and dessert. I loved hosting in my house, it's perfect for it and I haven't done much of it. And I just felt so blessed that these people I didn't even know a couple of months ago came over to celebrate with me. I told my best friend when we chatted after they left that it was finally starting to click. I really enjoyed this group of people and had a great time hanging out with them, and it was all low key and easy. So I think the community piece is slowly coming together and that really is a gift.

To add to the fun, my friend who wanted to make sure I had birthday plans sent me a cookie cake that I was able to share with my small group.

And of course I was blessed by Facebook messages, emails, cards, text messages and phone calls. It's fun to have lived all these places and have people that I love hearing from on days like my birthday. I'll also be able to drink peppermint mochas from Starbucks all winter long.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Students

When I was back home for the wedding, I was frequently asked if I was still cooking. The answer is yes, but I haven't made anything exciting. Mostly I cook soup, and soon I'll post some recipes. But this post is about work because that is what I'm really enjoying in life right now.

I worked the second half of Thanksgiving week, and I discovered two things: (1) It's much more efficient to do the work yourself, rather than delegating to students and then talking them through it. But (2) it's really boring to be at work without students.

So last week I was glad to see the students again and for things to be more normal at work. I found myself frustrated with having to delegate again, but I love when the newsroom is full and loud. Only students would find a YouTube video of a guy playing Silent Night on a nose flute (at the encouragement of an editor, I'll add).



On Friday, the capstone class, which is the final class seniors take, was making a presentation. This semester, I've worked closely with the majority of the students in that class, so I made a point to be there. They had all dressed up and were on top of their game. I've only known them for a semester, but I was so proud of them.

And while I really enjoy my time with the students, I sometimes feel like I'm just one more person telling them what to do and assume they are sick of me. But on Friday, when I walked in to the presentation, one of the students I work with on a daily basis gave me the handout. In her face I saw that she was excited I was there. At that moment, I thought, this is what it's all about.

I love that this job allows me to do journalism work, in particular community news, which had been missing from my life for a couple of years. But this would just be any other job if it weren't for the students. Working with them, teaching them, cheering for their success is what makes this job so unique.

Yes, there are times I want to strangle certain students or tie them to their chair so they will focus. Or other times I just want them to stop asking me questions. But it just isn't the same without them.

As the semester is coming to an end, I'm realizing there is about to be a major turnover. Some students will graduate, others will come back to work as TAs and there will be a whole new batch to train as copy editors. I'll be sad to see the seniors leave, but the turnover is what keeps this job exciting. In every other job after six months or so I'm begging my boss for a new challenge, but the challenge is built into this job with the change of the semester.

And if you want to read some of the great stuff our students are doing, check out this inspiring story: Kelsi Poe: The girl who fell at Quinton's builds an entirely new life

Friday, November 25, 2011

The South

With all the SEC chatter the last few months, there has been much discussion about whether Missouri fits in the South. Feelings appear to be mixed in Missouri, but when I had this conversation in Tennessee, the answer was a resounding no.

When I stepped off the plane in Nashville, a recording of Phil Vassar welcoming people to Nashville was playing over the loudspeakers. That followed by a party of my parents' friends and the wedding party, where the accents were much stronger than I remember, had already convinced me. Missouri is not the South.

As the weekend went on, I continued to be reminded that I was in the South:

The rehearsal dinner was in a barn (a nice one designed for these events but still a barn), and barbecue was served.


There was not a toast where someone didn't say y'all at least three times.

Krystals were served at the end of the wedding.

Our favorite family member on one side of the family is not actually related to us, but is invited to the family weddings and shows up. (I was very glad to see her!)

The specialty at a breakfast place is the ingredients of a veggie omelet in a bowl of grits.

The wedding planner brings Chick-fil-a for the bridesmaids to eat for lunch.

And I'm not sure if this is really a Southern thing, but it cracked me up nonetheless. They passed out pilgrim hats and Indian headbands:


I talked to my best friend as she was driving and I was sitting in an airport, and she told me that my accent has leveled out just right. I don't sound like a Midwesterner to her, but people in Missouri say I don't have a Southern accent. At the end of the day, I will always be from the South and maybe I'll return, but I'm enjoying the culture of all the other places I get to live and visit.

And completely unrelated, a picture of the cutest baby at the wedding:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm alive

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but it has been a pretty busy few weeks.

I went home to Tennessee for my brother's wedding over the weekend. If you've talked to me recently, you know I might not have had the best attitude about it. But I have to say, I really did have a lot of fun. I got to see lots of family I rarely see and catch up with friends of my parents that care so much about us. It really is cool to stand up with your brother at his wedding and recognize everyone sitting on the groom's side.

I've said it before, but we were lucky to grow up in the same town our whole lives. The people that came to the wedding have known the four of us for either all of our lives or most of them. That's a pretty special thing.

So it was a lot of fun to catch up with people, dance with my cousins, watch my brother enjoy himself and welcome a new sister to the family.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finally

I'm so glad to know that other people enjoyed My Boys. Thank you for sharing :)

Well, I felt an earthquake on Saturday night and then Mizzou joined the SEC Sunday morning. Made my restful weekend a little more eventful.

While I'm glad the SEC announcement finally happened, I could have picked a better time for it, such as this morning. I didn't go into work, but I did do a few things at home before church.

Of course, whether I'm at work or not, this type of thing brings out the news junkie in me. I was watching the press conference on TV, and had about seven tabs open in Firefox watching various Twitter feeds and a live chat for one of the local TV stations. And I proceeded to follow all of this for an hour and a half on my living room couch.

I grew up in the SEC in a family of Alabama fans. And I have to admit part of the appeal of Mizzou was that it wasn't in the SEC. I considered myself to be leaving the South. So it does seem weird to be here as all this is happening. The good news is that if I end up moving back to the East Coast, I might be able to see Mizzou play in future seasons. But I have trouble seeing Mizzou really compete in football against the SEC teams.

But at the end of the day, I didn't really care either way. I was just tired of waiting on the announcement and having to constantly have a contingency plan. Of course, it happened when we don't have a print edition the next day after weeks of days when we were desperate for some kind of news to put on the front page. But it has happened, and this week will stay pretty busy.

One other random thing: I love central time, and I love gaining an extra hour in the fall. But the end of daylight saving time and central time means it is pitch black at 5:30 p.m. I'm not a fan of that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Some stuff

I tried hard to be a good sport for Halloween. And I will say I went to a Halloween party and had fun. However, I was all geared up for trick-or-treaters since I actually live in a house, but I didn't have any trick-or-treaters. And I have to say I was disappointed, I thought that would be a redeeming part of my bitterness against Halloween. The students loved the candy on Tuesday though.

The red cups and peppermint mochas are back at Starbucks. My office is a block and a half from Starbucks. This is dangerous.

When I was starting school at Mizzou, I didn't want to be the redneck from Tennessee. It took me a semester or two to lose the accent, but I was more concerned about other things that screamed I'm from out of state. I remember being excited that my dad and I flew to freshman orientation because it meant that we rented a car with Missouri license plates. Clearly, an important thing... But I was reminded of this when I put Missouri plates on my car. I have to admit I wasn't as excited as I might have been as a freshman or sophomore in college. I think part of it was I had to take off the Virginia plates, which took a lot of effort to get two years ago. I'm not sure the Missouri process had any fewer obstacles; I just wasn't trying to get it done in the first week I moved. Anyway, I'm really a Missouri resident now.

There was a whole season and a half of My Boys before I started watching. I realize I'm probably the only one that watched this show or has even heard of it, but it used to be on TBS at midnight when I would get off work at the newspaper. The good news is I get to watch it on instant Netflix.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The hard part

On Friday, I was emailing with a friend about community. I made the comment that community is always changing, it's just obvious when you move to a new place to start over. But I promised, you find new community and settle into your place.

But I glossed over the hard part, and I was quickly reminded of it that night. There was an event at the big church in town for 20-somethings on Friday night. This is the first event like that I had heard about there, so I knew I needed to take advantage of it and go.

What I forgot about is that I would have to walk into a room of 25 people I didn't know and mingle. It felt like everybody knew each other, and there was an "in" crowd. I did meet a couple of people, but it was one of those moments where you feel lonely in a crowd of people. And all I wanted to do was go back to Virginia and enjoy a fun Friday night with my group of friends there.

But I remembered that in Virginia I had walked into similar situations. I ended up at a pool party where I knew just a few people and felt like an outsider. But that's where I met Megan. She got my number and started inviting me over to try her cakes or to have dinner with her and became a close friend.  

And one Sunday I was sitting by myself in Sunday School, and a girl named Katherine sat down beside me and ended up inviting me to her Bible study. She became one of my best friends, and that Bible study was my community there.

It was at that Bible study that I met Andrea who got my email address and became my social coordinator and another one of my best friends. I went to a dinner party at her house, and I had a lot of fun. I remember leaving her house and thinking, "I'm going to be OK here."

But it took walking into those hard situations to get to that point. It's easy to bury myself in work or sit on my couch on a Saturday night watching movies on Netflix. Putting myself out there and letting in new people is the hard part, but it's also the only way to create that new community.

But the good news is I've decided on a church. The people are really friendly, and I met a girl last week that invited me to her community group. I couldn't actually make it, but I got to have dinner with her and she invited me to her Halloween party. I went to the party on Saturday, and it was completely different from the Friday night party. I met people and enjoyed some great conversation. I left feeling like I'm on the right track to finding my community.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phone calls

Have I said lately that I have a lot of fun at work? There's plenty of work and stress involved, but there is always something going on in the newsroom to keep me entertained. Thanks to this job I now know about the duck song  and Marcel the shell.

But here's the funny thing I have to share with you today.

The first thing: People will call newsrooms with all kinds of questions.

A sports editor I worked with used to complain about drunks calling from bars to settle bets, but I think what happened on Tuesday night takes the cake for newsroom calls.

A week or two ago, we ran a story about a disease affecting bats, called white-nose syndrome. On Tuesday we get a call from a guy asking what he should do about a bat that is in his house (not totally clear on where the bat was but the guy said it wouldn't go away). The student that took the call has a pretty loud voice so people in the newsroom heard his side of the conversation.

Here's what we heard:

"So you're calling because we ran a story about white-nose bats?"

"You have a bat that won't leave?"

"Did you call animal control?"

"There are probably bat removal services."

"I see, so you don't want to kill the bat, you just want to get rid of it."

"This is a newspaper, so we don't really deal with bats. Have you tried the conservation department?"


The whole conversation lasted about 10 minutes with each comment by the student followed by laughter in the newsroom. My stomach hurt when it was over. I am impressed the staffer was able to carry on the conversation without busting out laughing.

Is this what people did before the Internet? Call newsrooms looking for answers?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Over the SEC and the World Series

I finished watching Felicity on Netflix. I liked it up until the last five episodes dealing with time travel. It should have just ended with the graduation episode. Now I need a new show on Netflix to watch. Suggestions? Of course, in the meantime I'm in season three of Friday Night Lights. Big surprise. But I think this is the best season.

I read on Saturday that Mizzou is having the worst start since the 2002 season. Guess who was a freshman in 2002? Yep, I'm afraid it's bad for the team if I live in Columbia. The best seasons were when I was far away.

To make up for the fact Mizzou is having a rough season, the Cardinals are in the World Series. Can you sense my enthusiasm? Yeah, I'm over this whole postseason thing. I like when my students show up to class and don't spend entire shifts keeping up with the score of the game.

Speaking of Mizzou football, this whole Mizzou/SEC thing is going to give me gray hair. Obviously, it would be huge news for us, but the waiting for news to dribble out is incredibly frustrating. I'm trying not to have an opinion, as it seems like a done deal, but I have a hard time picturing Mizzou in the SEC. And now I find out that Mizzou would be in the SEC East. Does anyone in the NCAA own a map? But if I end up back on the East Coast next fall, maybe I'll be able to see some games, possibly in the other Columbia...

Halloween is quite possibly my least favorite holiday. I have a whole rant about Halloween, but I'll spare you. However, now that I live in a house, I realized I might actually have trick-or-treaters. But I'm curious, do kids even trick-or-treat anymore? And do they go out on a school night?

That's all my randomness for today.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

College, round 2

There is something strange about coming back to my alma mater and working in the program I went through myself. I've thought a lot about what I would have done differently, but here's the thing, I don't want to undo my college experience. I just think I would do it again, differently, without erasing what I already did.

In this make-believe scenario of repeating college, I would take a few different classes and would change up the order of some of them. I would choose different editors, enter copy editing sooner, etc.

But one of the things I've wondered about is whether I would still choose to be in a sorority. I see a lot of students that aren't Greek and have more permanent friendships with fellow j-schoolers that has me wondering if I missed out on something. But anyway, at the parade this weekend, a friend talked about what we would have missed out on by not being Greek. And I knew I would have missed out on a lot. Homecoming wouldn't mean anything to me if I hadn't been in a sorority, and though there was a lot of work involved, I had a lot of fun being involved in all of it.

But that alone doesn't explain why I made that choice. On Monday night, I got to go to dinner at my old sorority house. There were so many things I had forgotten about that reminded me why I loved living in that house for four semesters.

Monday night is formal dinner, which means dressing up, but it also means being served dinner family style, rather than the buffet style. I forgot about the house boys that help serve, and it reminded me of the house boys we all had crushes on. I forgot that you sit at dinner until you are dismissed by the house mom. If you have to leave early, you have to ask to be excused. I sat at the house mom's table, and I got a kick out of watching the interaction as girls showed up late or needed to leave early.

I forgot about having dessert every night, which explains why my face is so chubby in the composite photos in the house. I forgot about having a house mom that really took care of all of us. There was a real adult around that provided some stability.

The house mom is the same woman that was there when I moved in. In fact her first year was my first year living in the house. She was talking about how needy my class and the class above me was during that first year. She said she always had people knocking on her door upset about something. But she said that doesn't happen very often anymore. I wanted to tell those girls they are missing out by not seeking her advice and relying on her. I don't think I ever brought any drama to her, but I know that once she wouldn't let me go to church because everything was icy. It was one of those moments when I knew my mom would have done the exact same thing.

So this week at dinner, I realized that it wasn't the pomping and parties and parades that made the sorority so important. It was the way it became my family when I was so far from home. There was plenty of drama in that house — that's what happens when 80 girls live under one roof — but I'm not sure I would have survived the stress of journalism school without that safe place to go home to. So it is definitely something I would repeat if given the chance.

I also realize why the transition to being on my own was so hard. I was really spoiled living in that house!

Monday, October 17, 2011

100th Homecoming

Remember this post from last year? I was dying to be at Homecoming at my alma mater. Well, this year I was here for the 100th MU Homecoming. It was a lot of fun to be here and a weekend full of seeing familiar faces, which was very refreshing.

As a student involved in a sorority, Homecoming involved a lot of work. Even though I was usually exhausted by the actual game, I still loved being a part of it all. But it was really nice to just witness the uniqueness of Mizzou's Homecoming without doing all of the work.

Homecoming starts on Friday with "house decs." It's hard to fully explain, but basically the Greek pairings (typically one sorority is paired with two fraternities) build elaborate sets to go along with a certain theme and a skit. This was my sorority's set this year, their theme was New Year's Eve (the overall theme was celebrations):


I posted this picture on Facebook and complained that there was no "pomping," which is applying small pieces of tissue paper to plywood with pencils and a glue mixture. I had heard they cut back a lot on it, but some of the other houses did quite a bit more. Here's a short video of one of the skits to better show you:



Then on Saturday morning, there is the parade. I realize I'm biased, but I think it's a really impressive parade. I watched it for two hours, and it was still going. The Greek pairings create a float based on their themes. Here is my sorority's float:


I think this was the best float:



Do you see the working fountains?



Look at this tractor. The fraternity that created this Mardi Gras float is called Farmhouse, so it makes sense but it's reminder that I'm in the Midwest now:



And always my favorite part of the parade:


OK, I won't bore you with anymore pictures, but it was a really fun weekend and I enjoyed seeing some good friends.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin brownies, bread machine and soup

I did a fair amount of cooking and baking over the weekend, and I have a few things to report on.

I still haven't given up on creating the right chocolate/pumpkin brownie combo. This time I achieved the appearance I wanted. These definitely looking like marble brownies. But there wasn't a lot of pumpkin in them, and I wonder if I could layer it a little bit.


With the leftover pumpkin batter, I added some flour and baking powder to make pumpkin muffins. Considering I was not following a recipe at all they turned out pretty well.

I live in the oldest neighborhood in town, and I've learned that this means there are a lot of estate sales and garage sales. There's at least one estate sale and close to a dozen garage sales in about a mile radius of my house. I'm not a true garage sale shopper because I don't get up early to go. I usually stop at a couple around 10 or 11 in the morning after I've been to the farmers' market.

Of course, the estate sales are where the best stuff seems to be, and I stopped at a pretty good one on Saturday. I was very tempted by a twin bed, but it turned out it had been sold already. I did find a breadmaker that I negotiated to $8. I've been wanting a breadmaker for a while, but was always hesitant to spend the money on another kitchen appliance.

I tested it out and made some good bread on Sunday. It's obviously an older model, and I had to look up the instruction manual online. But I can't seem to find a lot of recipes out there. So I'll take suggestions!

And lastly, I made cauliflower soup after enjoying some at Coralie's house. It's a Pioneer Woman recipe, which obviously means you can't go wrong, but I'm not a cauliflower fan and I loved this soup.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The six-week rule

When I went to school nine hours away from home, a weekend trip home was not feasible. But I was at a state school where a large majority of the students could make weekend trips home. And there were weekends when it felt like the dorm was empty, and I really struggled that first semester.

But since I didn't have a choice, I made the best of it and found people that did stay around on the weekends. I had to dig in and really make it my community. I found great friends and really loved my time in college.

As I've moved to new places since then, I've imposed a rule on myself to force myself to invest in a new place. For the first six weeks or so, I can't go home or leave town and escape. It forces me to find community and really be present in a new place.

But I also realize that I reach a point where I need to see familiar faces and have a conversation face-to-face with someone that already knows me.

In Georgia, a weekend trip home was easy, and in Virginia, my best friend was just a couple of hours away. And here, I have friends less than two hours away.

I had forgotten that I needed that refresher of seeing familiar people until I visited with some friends last weekend. After almost two months in a new place, I needed a real hug and a conversation deeper than the small talk when meeting new people.

Things are going well here, and this weekend I had a couple of things going on with new friends. I found myself less frustrated by the getting to know you stage after getting that weekend away. (Though I will confess I am tired of telling people I am not a student.) And there are two potential churches, so I'm feeling better on that front as well.

And this coming weekend is Homecoming, which is a HUGE deal around here. I'm looking forward to seeing friends I haven't seen in a long time, and enjoying the fun parts of Homecoming without having to do the work.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is this normal?

I've either noticed some strange things or experienced random things, and I just had to share.

A rooster living in a park on campus. Yes, there's a rooster that lives in a park across the street from work. I've seen it once, and I've also seen professionals try to catch it with a net, pretty amusing actually. Apparently, there is a woman that feeds it every day as well. Obviously, a newspaper story is in the works.


To be greeted outside of church by a guy with an iPad to "check me into a class." I'm sure this is an efficient system, but it was yet another sign the church is huge. Of course, I was there for my women's study, which didn't count, so I didn't get to see what cool app he had for checking people in.

To watch TV while pumping gas. There were TVs at all of the pumps at this particular gas station. They were showing the NBC affiliate run by the journalism school, which is cool, but it still seemed odd.

To be asked if I'm on Facebook on a visitor card at church. Is it just me or is that a little creepy for a church or its staff to search for you on Facebook? It turns out this church actually ended up sending me snail mail this week.

People dressed as vikings in a park. I drove by this on my way home from work and thought maybe they were filming a Capital One commercial.

For a church service to completely stop for seven minutes while the children are dismissed. They had a countdown on the screen for when the service would start again. It kind of turned into social time, and I thought it disrupted the whole flow of the service, especially considering I don't have kids to take to a classroom.

To send out a Google form to my students and get half of them back printed out and filled out by hand. The whole point was that I didn't want to have to decipher their handwriting.

To get a gift certificate for a coffee shop in the mail from a church I visited. It's definitely appreciated, but is it necessary?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Co-op vs. the farmers' market

Moving to a new city meant giving up my co-op in Virginia. I did some searching for CSAs here, but it was too late in the season to start one. I decided to make the best use of the farmers' market instead.

While the market is significantly smaller than the one I went to in Virginia, there's still everything I want and enough variety. I usually make it about every other week. I go in with a certain amount of cash to spend, and my goal is to spend all of it and get several small portions of things. It's amazing what all I can get for $8 to $10. And while I have less stuff going bad, I also finish stuff before I get tired of it.

In a lot of ways this is more practical and cost-efficient than the co-op. The downside is that I know what I like and tend to gravitate to the same things every week. The co-op forced me to try new things, and I often had an abundance of something so I ended up using it several different ways.

This week I created a rule for myself that I had to get one new thing every time I went to the market. I decided on spaghetti squash on Saturday.

I had heard about spaghetti squash before, and I'm sure plenty of people had told me about it, but I had never tried it. Last fall I kept expecting it to show up in my share, but it never did. I was so enamored with the other winter squashes I had never tried before that I didn't think I was missing anything.

I decided to go ahead and cook the squash on Saturday since I was at home and had some time. I quickly realized I had been missing out on something wonderful. All I did was cook it in the oven for an hour or so and then pull the strands out and heat them with butter on the stove. It was great just like that, but my mind started to churn with possibilities that I'll be experimenting with this week.

And I think spaghetti squash will be on my always get list at the market. What else have I missed that I should try next? I'm considering being brave and trying eggplant.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I forgot about this part

I have debated writing this post for quite a while, and I wrote it to process my own thoughts more than anything. But if you have any thoughts or suggestions on church shopping, I'd love to hear them!

When I graduated from college, I was looking for a church just like the one I attended here in college. I ended up driving 45 minutes to find a match, but after a year I realized it was hard to have community in a church 45 minutes away. And it turns out there was a great, small church right in front of me that took me in.

Then I moved and was told to go to one specific church by everyone, but after three weeks, I was so sick of always meeting different people during the peace greeting, I almost stopped going. But I ended up finding my best friends through that church and the ministries there. My circle of friends continued to grow, and that huge church felt a lot smaller when I left.

It's funny how the things you dislike the most become the things you miss the most. After six weeks of going to the church I attended in college, I would give anything for a peace greeting during the service. For weeks, I've walked in and out of the church without talking to anyone.

Now that I'm here and back at my old college church, I'm realizing that I expect different things from a church than I did when I was in college. I am depending on a church to meet people and find friends and some community here. The preaching at the church is even better than I remember. The Gospel is preached over and over, and while I had to readjust to the music, it is a worshipful experience. But in the six years I've been gone, the church has become a megachurch.

And I'm struggling to see how I'll find community in that environment. I was originally excited because I thought there was a young professionals Sunday School class, but it stopped meeting this summer. I've joined a women's study, but I grew even more concerned about the church when women who had been going there for two to three years were having a very similar experience of not talking to anyone on Sunday mornings.

So I'll be trying a new church this Sunday. As my mom told me the other day, I don't have to be monogamous with a church, so I may end up doing some mixing and matching. But I seemed to have blocked this part of the whole moving to a new city thing because it's much harder than I remember.

One funny thing about adjusting here: In my last few weeks in Virginia, I felt like I was always running into people I know -- at the grocery store, downtown, etc. At the time, I thought: I'm really going to miss that because it took a long time for that to be the case. What I did not consider is that in my new job I interact with dozens of students on a daily basis, and that I would start seeing those students around town. I ran into one at the grocery store recently, I ducked from another because I couldn't remember his name or whether he was a copy editor or reporter, and then had one student yell to me from several yards away. So, I guess that part happened quicker than expected.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's been a while, but an actual post about cooking

After a crazy, busy week, I spent some time cooking this weekend. I finally have a larger kitchen, and I haven't spent that much time cooking in it. But I realized as I was cooking that the kitchen setup actually makes sense. I was making soup and pulled out my immersion blender and realized there is an outlet right by the stove.

After a kitchen with no drawers and one outlet, which meant rotating appliances, this i a very nice change. What is also nice: Throwing all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, wiping off the counter and having a clean kitchen.

I've tried a couple of new things, I thought I'd post about because in theory this is supposed to be a cooking blog.

After restaurant week, I was inspired to make zucchini cakes/fritters again. I knew I wasn't going to match the zucchini crab cake I had, but I wanted to get close to the zucchini fritter I had. Of course, then I got the job and moved and started the new job... But this weekend I did make a batch of zucchini fritters. I used this recipe from smitten kitchen. The recipe is pretty simple, but the directions are extensive, so I'm just linking it. I thought they turned out really well and were good left over.

I've been using Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pie Crust, and it has worked great. But then she raved about another recipe, and I figured if she thought it was better than hers I probably should try it. I've been making it with all butter and leave out the salt. I used it in a couple of tomato pies and then a zucchini pie this weekend. I'm trying freezing some of the dough this time to see if it works as well as the other one. Again the directions are pretty extensive, so I'm just linking to it.

Also, I bought some kale at the farmers' market last weekend. I am still a little shocked I chose to buy it, but I was on a mission to spend all $8 in cash that I had and have some variety in what I bought. I went to make kale chips and suddenly couldn't remember if there was something else to them besides olive oil and salt (there isn't). I texted a friend and she reassured me I had it right, but also suggested putting the mix for ranch dressing/dip. I tried that yesterday, and it was really good, definitely added some good flavor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking back

It's hard not to think about where I was 10 years ago when I found out about the terror attacks. We worked all week on the newspaper for Sunday, and all around me people were sharing their stories. I debated even writing about mine today, but as I started to think about my life after that day, I started to see the greater impact Sept. 11 had on the last 10 years of my life.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a senior in a high school. I had a free period first thing on Tuesdays, and I was sitting in the quad with my friends, goofing off and laughing. I went to my second period class — U.S. History. It was at least 9 a.m. by that point, and we got called to an assembly. The last time there was an unscheduled assembly, they canceled classes because a water main had broken. We went into the assembly thinking school would be called off.

I don't remember the exact words the headmaster said. I'm not sure I really believed it until I saw it on TV after the assembly. Afternoon activities were canceled, and my day was over about noon that day. I remember being hesitant to go anywhere except home. There was a fear I had never had about going about my daily life.

I went home and started watching the news coverage. I had known I wanted to be a journalist since I was 11 years old, but this event made me even more certain that this was the path I wanted to follow. Journalists run into situations when others are running away, and as I watched all the coverage and read the stories, I wanted to be in the thick of it, not watching from afar.

That weekend I was going on a college visit to a small school that until then had been my top choice and on to visit my sister at school. There had been much debate about the weekend trip since we were leaving my younger brother and sister at home, the football game that weekend was canceled and there was concern about a gas shortage. There were a number of reasons I didn't really enjoy my college visit and why that wasn't the school for me. But I also realized it wasn't going to get me that much closer to my dream.

I started the fall of 2002 at one of the top journalism schools and 3.5 years later after three internships, two reporting semesters and one semester of copy editing, I took my first job at a newspaper. But it wasn't in New York or D.C. It was in a small town in Georgia, but I was in a place where the war was real. Before then I had been pretty sheltered from what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, I followed the news, but day-to-day the war didn't impact my life.

That changed in 2006 when I moved to Georgia. I was living next door to an Army post where a brigade of soldiers was just returning from Iraq. A year and a few months later, they were deployed again. At the newspaper where I worked, we put stories about Iraq on the front page much more frequently than most newspapers around the country. We checked the casualty report every night, and all deaths of soldiers from the post went on the front page. And the war got even more personal when the soldier I had fallen for was deployed to Iraq for 15 months.

I've gotten to be in newsrooms when big things happened, none as big as Sept. 11, and each time I am re-energized as a journalist. I dive into work while everyone else pauses. I don't sit on the sidelines anymore. The decisions we make about coverage and the stories we write and edit are the first version of history.

Now that I'm back in the newsroom where I first learned to be a journalist, it's interesting to look back and realize the long-term impact Sept. 11 had on my life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A hint of fall

I hate to brag about the weather here because it seems like everywhere else is being slammed with rain or in a drought. But we are having some perfect weather here — low 70s, slight breeze and blue sky. I tried to take full advantage of it over the weekend.

There's a great trail I can get to from my house without driving that weaves through town without ever going on a street or crossing one. On Sunday afternoon I pulled my bike out and got in a 10-mile ride. And then after I worked on Monday, I headed out again to try and revive my couch to 5-K attempt. I went back a couple of weeks and definitely struggled, but it was good to be out exercising again.

On Friday afternoon, I was driving around town, and I found myself stopping at an intersection and thinking, there's something missing here. Then it occurred to me that I was expecting to see mountains in the landscape. Of course, there are no mountains, not even rolling hills. It is very flat. But as I rode my bike on the trail on Sunday and jogged on Friday, I was grateful that it was flat and there was no point where I needed to walk my bike.

I made about three attempts to ride my bike back in Virginia, and every time I found myself walking almost more than riding because I was literally trying to ride my bike up mountains. So I guess there is something to be said for a flat landscape.

Anyway, I hope this weather is here to stay. I've already started pulling out my fall wardrobe.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A few lessons

I've thought of some things to blog about, but with a new job and the start of classes, I don't have enough coherent thoughts to turn those thoughts into a post once I've left the newsroom. 

But here's some things I've learned this week:

Leave food (opened or unopened) unattended in a newsroom, and someone will eat it. I lost a bag of chips this week.

There's a reason the previous tenants did not have a battery in one of the smoke detectors. I haven't taken it back out, but I've gotten used to it going off every time I open the oven.

Newspapers like to have lots of meetings. On Thursday I was in four, and somehow missed lunch.

College football is a big deal, even if I'm not at an SEC school. I had the first of many "does football belong on the front page?" debates on Thursday.

When I love my job, I don't even realize how late I'm working. It's fun to be back in this environment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chaos, i.e. students arrive!

So last week was my brief chance to (1) get up to speed on how things work at the paper and (2) come up with a plan for the class I teach. This week students arrived, and I suddenly became an expert and a teacher.

Here's the best description I could come up with for how things went this week:

Imagine you work with several teams of people to complete a project/task/product. Now imagine that it's the first day of work for everyone on those teams. And then imagine that this repeats itself every day of the week for a week. Of course add to that the fact that it's only your second week on the job and you can start to imagine the chaos.

Basically, as soon as I had a handle on the Monday teams, it was Tuesday and there was an entirely new crew. It also feels like as soon as I managed one crisis, I was hit with another.

While there is something energizing about working with students, especially the ones who are over-eager, I also had to realize that they are flaky 21-year-olds who are working for you for free. Of course, they have no hesitation in canceling a shift at the last minute.

All week, I've watched my days fly by and even forgotten to stop and eat. I work until the paper is done on Tuesdays, which was 12:30 a.m. this week, and even though I don't think I slept much, I was excited to get up and teach a class and be in the newsroom all day on Wednesday. I consider all of these things to be proof that this is a job I'm passionate about and that there was something missing before.

I'm still figuring out how to factor in life stuff and even a social life (when I find some friends) with all of this but that will come once I get past the craziness of the first few weeks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A house with character

I am now in my third rental. I've been really lucky with all the places I've lived. Each place has had some character. I never did the apartment complex thing, so my apartments and my current house have all been unique. But I think this house wins as the one with the most character, and I absolutely love it.

The house was built by my landlord's grandfather. He was a bricklayer, so the house is pretty much all brick -- inside and out. Some of the rooms have plaster over the brick, but I'm pretty sure all but a couple of the interior walls are actually brick. My landlord has been insistent on keeping it as it was, so there's wallpaper in the dining room that most people would have taken down years ago. And in "the brick room" there's a wooden built-in desk with shelves that she actually had put back in after it was taken out to replace the flooring.



The house also has "j-school karma" as my landlord said. Her grandmother was in PR and did freelance writing. She also collected Mark Twain newspapers and used them to cover the bathroom closet:



My landlord, who spent a lot of time at the house growing up, also attended journalism school at Mizzou.

Throughout the house, there are little things you wouldn't find in a modern house, including a built-in scale in the bathroom.



While a part of me thinks of all the things I would do to change the house if I owned it, I actually love the character that comes with it. And I understand why my landlord wants to preserve the history of the house. It's a privilege to get to live in it for a little while. More pictures of the house are on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Job update


I started work this week, and for now the excitement of being back in an active, loud newsroom that is familiar is outweighing the fears and anxiety over teaching a class. I've been able to jump in and actually feel productive in workflow on the first two days. Actually getting to post stories and play with the layouts isn't a lot, but I can at least point to something I did.

I honestly had no idea what this job would look like on a day-to-day basis, so it's been great to have a better idea of what the next year is going to look like. The exciting news is that I'm working day shifts with the exception of Tuesday nights (which was also my late shift at the old job).

On the dayside shift, I oversee the interactive copy desk for the website of a city newspaper. While I do some of the actual work, a lot of it is overseeing students, answering questions and challenging the students to think about how our content is presented and distributed.

When I work the late shift, I will be spending some time with the print product — coaching copy editors and helping designers — while also making sure the website is ready for the morning.

I also will teach a class on news design. I've been given a ton of resources, but I'm having to dig back to several years ago when I first learned design. It's been a few years since I actually did design work, so I'm actually going to design the front page of the paper one night this week just to remind myself of what's required.

I also get to have an office day to work on class stuff and catch up on things without being constantly interrupted. Also, for the first time in my professional career, I have an office, though I've only spent about 30 minutes total in it for the first two days.

I'm only two days in, and I haven't had to face the classroom yet, but I am so excited to be back in this environment. This week there are a bunch of graduate students in the newsroom getting their feet wet as reporters. The attitude of the newsroom here is different than probably any other newsroom in the country. These students are hungry to write and report and get their clips — not for pay but for a grade. I'm sure the complaining will come as the semester wears on, but it's fun to see people excited about journalism and looking to do more than just slide by. It's definitely a glass half-full place.

There have been so many things so far that really affirmed this job and the reasons God had me wait for it. There are still hard things to come in this transition, but things are off to a really great start.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Things I didn't expect (moving edition)

Well, I've made it to Missouri and actually feel settled in my new house. I'm not sure how regularly I'll be blogging once work starts but I have a few posts about the move in mind.

I think this is true for any move, but as much as I planned and tried to be prepared and organized, the actual move didn't match any of the scenarios I was expecting. In fact, there were a lot of things I didn't expect -- both good and bad. Here's my list because I think it's a good summary of the move, and in the end the good things definitely outweighed the bad.

Things I didn't expect:
  • To move out of my apartment in the middle of the night. The movers showed up at 10 p.m. and finished at 12:30 a.m. after waking up my neighbors. But the movers did show up after I spent a lot of time worrying that they wouldn't show at all.
  • To get to Missouri at 2:30 a.m. after a 15-hour drive because we had to beat the movers.
  • For the 15-hour drive to fly by as I chatted with my mom and enjoyed the scenery.
  • For all of my stuff to weigh 5,000 pounds, considering all estimates were between 3,000 pounds and 4,000 pounds.
  • To not have a bank branch within a two-hour drive. Lots of drama about this, which will ultimately require me to drive to Kansas to get money back on a cashier's check.
  • For it to be so easy to get a money order from the post office and to find a post office that stays open until 7 p.m.
  • For my movers to actually show up with my stuff on the first day of the delivery window. I had visions of waiting several days to get my stuff, but it was all moved in 14 hours after I arrived.
  • For it to be 75 degrees in August when the movers unloaded my stuff.
  • To get so lucky for the second time of renting a place sight unseen. My house is perfect!
  • To have to get a new social security card and for it to take less than 15 minutes to do it.
  • To meet a potential friend on my first night in town.
  • To have to break into my own house on my second night. Lesson learned and now all windows are either locked or nailed shut so no one else can break in.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I'll miss

Most of all I'm going to miss my friends and the community I had here. But here's some other things I'll miss from my life here:
  • Walking to work (and to pretty much anything else I need)
  • The Downtown Mall
  • Restaurants, particularly my lunch favorites: Eppie's, The Country Store (best salad bar)
  • My apartment and neighborhood
  • My church (I think I'll still be downloading sermons.)
  • The mountains
  • Convenience to my best friend from high school and my sister
  • My co-op and the farmer's market
  • The never-ending list of things to do and events in town
  • Court Square (Just love this little part of downtown I walked through everyday.)
  • Fall (yes, there will be a fall in Missouri but not nearly as beautiful as it is here)
  • Monticello trail (and walking it with friends)
There's probably much more I'll add to this list once I've actually moved.

Since graduating from high school, I've lived in six cities for varying lengths of time, and I have to say that this one wins as my favorite so far. Before I moved here, I knew nothing about the city and actually thought I wanted something bigger, but I quickly discovered this city was exactly what I wanted, and it makes me think college towns are the best places to live. I definitely hope that somehow I end up back here, but it's fun to experience new cities and, hopefully, re-experience a city I've already lived in.

OK, back to the boxes!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Heart friends

The day I got the call about the job in Missouri, Jon Acuff wrote this Serious Wednesday post. I urge to read the whole post, but the gist of it is that he wrote about the importance of relationships and described what he called heart friends. One excerpt:


"Friendships are ineffective. The ROI on relationship is pretty horrible. They can take years to develop. They might lead nowhere. They will definitely hurt you at some point. And you couldn’t quantify them if you tried. But Christ sought them out. Christ knew what it meant to be known."

It was interesting to read this on the day that I got the news about the job. While I am excited about what's in store for me in Missouri, I am really sad to leave this place where I have found such great friendships.

When I left Georgia two years ago, I was running. I didn't admit it at the time, but I was running and never looked back. I did know some great people there, but I wasn't invested and I didn't have anything keeping me there. Thankfully, God gave me a direction in that running and blessed me with two years in this place.

I have friends here that really know me, friends that I've invested in and who have invested in me, friends I've opened up to and lived life with. And when I shared my news with them, they were happy for me. Yes, we are all sad, but they still wanted what was right for me and are cheering for my success in this new adventure.

I know our friendships don't end when I drive out of town and that we will stay connected, but this is the hard part of this transient life I lead. I used to think that loneliness was part of the package as a twenty-something, single woman and that finding friends in that same place in life when you aren't in college was impossible. But these friends have proved me wrong. And it gives me hope that if I'm willing to dig in and be open, God has some more friends He wants me to meet in Missouri. But it still scares me.

This is also a hard time to walk away from the relationships I have here. I have a friend going through something really tough right now, and it's going to be hard not to be here. But it does put things in perspective. There are bigger things than a new city and a new job, and there are friendships that transcend all of it.

This time I'm not running, and I will look back. I'll even be back — at the very least — to visit. This is not a week of good-bye but of "see you later."

Friday, July 29, 2011

The details are covered

As if waiting on a job isn't stressful enough, there is the part where I have to move halfway across the country. As I've gone through this process I kept feeling like there were points where God was saying, "I've got it covered."

I live in a pretty amazing apartment, minus the raccoon drama, and the apartment is in a house that has five other apartments. There has only been one other apartment that I've really wanted here. It has a huge kitchen and a large back deck. So I had been waiting for the girl that lived there to get engaged/married (she was dating someone). She ended up getting married, and back in the spring after I had applied for the first job at MU, I came home and she was moving out.

Of course, my mind started going a million miles a minute, and I was already stressing about what if I move upstairs and then have to move again but what if I don't go to Missouri and miss out on the kitchen up there and on and on. After 15 minutes of this, I knew I had to find out what was going on. I emailed my landlord, and after apologizing for not offering me the apartment, she told me that she already had someone to move in.

I felt like God just said: "Don't stress, I've already taken away the decision for you." And so I was saved sleepless nights and moving twice all in about 20 minutes.

But now of course, I needed somewhere to live in Missouri. I was so lucky finding this apartment sight unseen in a city I didn't know at the time, I just wasn't sure it would work out again. And I've had the best landlord, and even she was excited for me when I got the job. For weeks I had been checking craigslist multiple times a day and not coming up with the location I wanted.

On Monday I finally found a place that met most of my criteria, but I was jumping through hoops with a rental management company that weren't easy to jump through long distance. And then on Wednesday I found the perfect house, in the best location with a wonderful landlord included. I'm holding off on showing pictures of the inside until I have my stuff in there (rather than the chaos of old tenants in the process of moving out). But here's the outside:



The current tenants didn't give notice of moving out until July 11. I'm not positive when the ad was put in the newspaper, but the ad itself was vague and I first came across it on Tuesday. So if this process had gone any faster, I would have never found it and settled for something I wasn't quite happy with. And guess what it has? A DISHWASHER! Not sure if I'm more excited about that or my very own washer and dryer included in the house.

God had all the details worked out, and He managed to save me some stress along the way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The back story and God's timing

I wanted to share a bit about the way God has prepared me for and worked out the details of my new job and move back to Missouri.

For about a year, I've struggled with some discontentment in my current situation. There was nothing terrible, but I knew I wasn't thriving in my work and didn't have the passion and interest I used to have. I started to apply for some positions in the area but never seemed to get anywhere.

While I've always been big on job security and having benefits and financial security, this spring I stepped outside of the box and considered something pretty risky. I fought hard for a role I thought was made for me and was willing to accept the risk involved. But I ended up really disappointed.

I found some hope in that disappointment and was reminded that if I thought this particular thing was perfect, then whatever God has for me is even better.

At that point I was determined to stay in my current city. This place has become home, and I have such great friends and community here. But when I was challenged on my insistence on staying, I had to question my motives. After two years of learning about idols, I still missed a very obvious one in my life. I realized I had made my comfort in this city an idol. I wanted to stay here more than I wanted God's plan for me. My prayers always had a "but," i.e. please change this situation but let me stay here.

With that conviction, I opened myself up to looking beyond opportunities in this city. And I found what was even more perfect than the position I fought so hard for. I found a posting for a one-year position at my alma mater working with students in the journalism school and at the city newspaper there. Even six months before, I would never have considered a temporary position like this, but after the experience of preparing to accept some risk with a previous opportunity, the one-year term actually turned out to be part of the appeal of the job.

There was a long process after I found this position and a lot of waiting, even a rejection involved. But God's timing is perfect and He used that time to mold it into the right job for me and prepare me for the possibility of moving.

More to come on this.

Friday, July 22, 2011

News

Well, the waiting is over. I can't wait to share how God has led me back here:


(That's the University of Missouri for non-Midwesterners.)

But for now, I'm getting moving estimates, searching for apartments and squeezing in a visit to see a certain baby girl.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dining out

I've eaten seven meals out in the last 10 days. Three meals were when I was out of town, but the other four have been at great local restaurants that I've managed to go two years without visiting. I've had some great meals and stepped outside of my usual menu picks.

Of course all this eating out means I have a lot of great produce going bad in my refrigerator. But it has inspired me to improve my zucchini fritter/cakes.

But I realized after dinner on Tuesday that all this eating out has given me a chance to catch up with friends and get to know new ones. Basically the same group has gone to three meals together, and at the first meal there were a few people I had only spoken with in passing or our prior conversations were limited to small talk. But over the course of three meals together, I've gotten to know people better and had some shared experiences that are worth retelling.

I've written about this before, but I grew up in a family that ate dinner together most evenings. We didn't eat in shifts or in front of the TV. We sat down together and talked to each other during dinner. I don't think I could pinpoint specific memories, but the kitchen table at my parents' house is what I think about when I think of my family and my experiences growing up. When I go home, I still love to sit at that table and talk with whoever finds their way in the kitchen.

Anyway, I was just reminded over the past week of how great it is to share a meal with others and have that community. Even though I've gotten pretty good at cooking for one, it's still more fun to share a meal with friends. And I think that's a good reason to put off cooking green beans another night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Restaurant week

It's restaurant week here and that means trying new-to-me restaurants and trying some new dishes.

For dinner on Tuesday I had a zucchini fritter (way better than what I've tried to make), oyster mushrooms (who would have thought I would have chosen mushrooms over lamb and pork) and a bacon waffle with peaches (yes, a waffle with pieces of bacon in it, it was excellent).

And then because we were right next door, we topped the meal off with frozen yogurt. I am sad to say that the flavors have changed at the yogurt place, and I really miss the strawberry lemonade.

Round two of restaurant week is on Thursday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Raccoon update and a garden

I've been afraid to actually write this because I thought I might be jinxing it, but it's been more than a week and I feel like it's true: The raccoon and her babies are gone. I haven't heard any scratching in a long time and there have been no sightings. I'll probably never know if she left on her own or because of the chemical they used. I laughed pretty hard when I saw the new Allstate commercial; I think it wraps up the whole saga pretty well.


Even in the midst of the raccoon saga, I really love the apartment I have. But one of the things you notice is that the when the house was renovated the money was spent on the inside, not the outside, which I do appreciate. However, I almost chickened out when I saw the porch that looks like it could fall off at any moment, and the backyard seemed to be where lawn tools came to die. The porch is still in bad shape, though I see it as charming instead of ghetto now. But the backyard has been transformed into an actual garden with beautiful flowers and a variety of vegetables -- tomatoes, squash, broccoli, cucumbers. A few pictures:




Of course this was transformed without any help from me. The guy who takes care of the house did all the work, and it is pretty amazing. I can enjoy it from my back deck and not feel like I live in the city. This week I noticed that several of the vegetables were ripe for picking, but no one seemed to be harvesting anything from the garden. Despite the story of the little red hen playing in my head all week, on Sunday night I broke down and picked a tomato to put on my pizza. I'm hoping to get some in my share this week, so I'm not tempted to "borrow" anymore!

I think I'm actually looking forward to this week, even though it will be busy at work, I have some fun things planned in the evenings and for the weekend.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Waiting

I am not good at waiting. I hate traffic jams but find sitting in airports even worse. I tend to arrive places a little bit late, so I don't have to wait on other people. And even if I'm only waiting a few minutes, my iPhone comes out.

On Monday night (the Fourth of July), I had to wait for AAA. I had driven to the fireworks with friends, and while we waited on the fireworks to start, the battery on my car died. I thought my car might start again after it had a break, but it didn't and then jumping off someone else's car didn't work either. So we were left waiting for AAA.

In the 30 minutes we had to wait, I quickly reached frustrated. Here's a glimpse of what was going on in my head: The battery on my car has never died. Why would it die now? I know I've had the car five years, but it has been so reliable, why would it have a meltdown now? I just spent a lot of money on maintenance. And I have friends that want to go home. I have to be at work at 8 a.m. I do not want to sit here and wait for some guy to show up and attempt to jump my car off. What if he can't jump it? There went a bus, do you think we could catch a bus home at 10:30 p.m. I can live without my car this week, can we just leave it parked here so I can go home?

Yeah, not good at waiting. I couldn't read my friends' minds, but they seemed to have a much better attitude. They talked and laughed and enjoyed the "rogue" fireworks going off long after the main event ended. They managed to enjoy the waiting. I know they were anxious to get home too, but they didn't complain about an extra 30 minutes of time to hang out.

Right now I'm waiting for something that's bigger than AAA or a traffic jam or a delayed flight. And I've been struggling with the waiting. I've been distracted and not really present in what is happening right now. I know God's timing is perfect, but I've been desperate to move forward without Him.

A friend sent me a devotional that reminded me of why we wait for God. It is in waiting that God we see His power. If I do it my way, I miss seeing the perfect plan God has been working out in His perfect timing. It echoed the verse I'm memorizing right now: "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you." Isaiah 30:18a.

I want to wait and see God's power, and as I saw on Monday night, the waiting doesn't have to be stressful. Yes, I'm tired of waiting, but waiting means that I have time, time I should take advantage of. So I'm trying to enjoy the waiting and focus on my present, not the future I can't control.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sign of a good recipe

Want to know the sign of a good recipe? Your mom calls and offers to send you her recipe before realizing she got the recipe from you. So on to some recipes...

I found a link on Twitter to a peach cupcake recipe from smittenkitchen, and she recommended cutting the sugar and the icing and treating them as muffins. They turned out great, just the right amount of peach. Here's the recipe:

Peach muffins
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat yogurt (or buttermilk or sour cream) 
  • 3 large peaches, peeled, cored, and chopped smallish (1/3-inch dice)
 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 28 muffin cups with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then the vanilla. Gently mix in the yogurt. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the peach chunks.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

And here's another good peach recipe from Southern Living: Peach enchiladas.

I had okra from my share and needed a side dish for a Fourth of July picnic, here's what I made from AllRecipes:
  • 1/2 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Place the okra and tomatoes in a bowl. Pour in the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir until the vegetables are coated with oil. Add the panko bread crumbs and stir. Spread the vegetables on to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the okra is lightly browned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A weekend in June

A Friday off

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Tubing down a river with friends

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Polo at a local vineyard


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A fun summer weekend!

I'm going to be sad to see the end of June — work has been slow, the weather has been ideal and there's been plenty of fun things going on. But I guess we'll see what July holds!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saying yes

So it's been almost a month since my schedule at work changed, but with travel and the transition I haven't really gotten to enjoy having my evenings back until last week and this week. But now that I've settled into it, I've found myself saying yes to more things, and I like that. A few things I've gotten to say yes to recently:

The gym — If I follow through today, I will have made it to the gym three times this week. That hasn't happened in a very long time. I even got to go with a friend on Monday.

Books — I don't ever stop reading even if I'm busy, but I don't always find time to sit and finish a really good book in the middle of the week. But I did that on Tuesday and finished The Postmistress, if you need a good book, pick this one up. I really enjoyed it.

Ice cream (and friends) — In the past week, I've gone for ice cream (actually gelato and frozen yogurt) three times, and I had to turn down a fourth invite that came 20 minutes after I had gotten home from frozen yogurt. I have a rule that I can only go to the serve yourself frozen yogurt place that is four blocks away if I am going with someone else. The frozen yogurt is good, but it's even better to sit and chat with friends.

I'm looking forward to saying yes to more things this summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some recipes

This year my co-op is including directions for how to store the produce in its weekly emails, and I've been following their instructions, which means I've been using the drawer in my refrigerator. If you count that drawer, I have two drawer in my kitchen, the other is below my oven. But the drawer in the refrigerator is at the bottom and is not see-through. This means I have on occasion forgotten what was in it.

This happened two weeks ago with my swiss chard. A friend posted a picture of rainbow swiss chard on Facebook, and I suddenly realized I had some that I forgot about completely. I hadn't touched it, so I needed to make something with it pretty quickly. I haven't been too excited about sauteed greens this year, and I was hoping for something different. I did some searching and came up with a recipe for Savory Swiss Chard and Cheese Biscuits. I took them to a dinner on Saturday, and they seemed to be well-liked. Here's the recipe:

Savory Swiss Chard and Cheese Biscuits

  • 3 cups Swiss Chard Green Leafs, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt (I forgot, but based on the reviews and my experience, I would halve this.)
  • ½ teaspoons Curry Powder
  • 1 cup Sour Cream (heaping Cup)
  • 3 whole Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese (heaping)
  • ½ cups Bread Crumbs
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
In a glass bowl (or any other microwave safe dish), combine Swiss chard, olive oil, salt and curry. Microwave for 2 minutes, until the greens wilt a bit and smell nice. Drain excess liquid.
In a different bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs and baking powder. Mix well and add the cooked greens. Mix well.
Divide mixture between 9 (preferably silicone) muffin pan cups or individual baking cups (oil well or line with paper cups if you are not using silicone) and bake in a 350F for 35 minutes.
Serve at room temperature or cold from the fridge. These should come out moist and juicy, so don’t overcook them. 

My other experimenting came in the form of chocolate beet cupcakes. I am hesitant to share the recipe I used because I made a lot of substitutions and also cut it to two-thirds when I realized I didn't have enough beets. So I wasn't too happy with the result, and I'm not sure if it's because I changed it or if the beet consistency is still evident when the recipe is followed. But here's the link and now I wish I had tried this one instead.

I also made some old favorites over the weekend. I substituted yellow squash for zucchini in zucchini pie, and then used zucchini to make zucchini bread.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's different

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting a lot about the co-op since the season started. This time last year almost all of my posts were about my pick-ups and all the cooking I was doing. But this year is different.

Part of it is the newness has worn off, and I feel like I don't have time to cook or blog. But it's also that my shares have also been different this year, and it caught me off guard. I've still enjoyed my shares, but I was expecting a repeat of last year and that's not really what I've been getting.

But I got my box on Wednesday, and I remembered the excitement I had last year. I remembered that summer is when it gets really good. I'm enjoying the best cherries I've ever had, I made stuffed squash for dinner Thursday night, and I've got a pound of fresh green beans sitting in my refrigerator. I haven't gotten to the peaches yet, but they look perfect. I even tried something new when I put kohlrabi on my salad.

There have been weeks when I wished we were getting as much asparagus as last year and that it was always Bibb lettuce, not romaine or field lettuce, in my share. But the surprise element is part of the challenge, and it means I'm trying new things. I ate mushrooms and even liked roasted beets, though my beets ended up in chocolate cupcakes. I'm finding new recipes and also savoring things cooked simply.

I thought since I made all these changes with my eating habits last year, I would get to stay in my comfort zone this time. Not the case, and even though I don't like change, it's good for me to get out of my comfort zone sometimes.

Recipes to come...