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.