Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pride and Prejudice Remix

Yet another iteration of one of the great literary classics: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on youtube! Based on Pride and Prejudice, set in modern times, told in video journal style by Lizzie.


Monday, November 19, 2012


A few friends of mine host a "Fauxgiving" every year.  Despite the name, there is no twist, it's just an extra Thanksgiving that you cook and celebrate with your friends.  It definitely gets you in the Thanksgiving mood and, who doesn't love more pie?  It was my first year attending, and I brought several dishes, because, 1) I like it when people compliment my food, 2) It sounded like the menu was pretty starch heavy and I have thousands of CSA veggies, 3) I was a little afraid my vegan-ness would preclude me from the "feast" part of Thanksgiving.  So, I spent 4 hours cooking on a Saturday morning. It felt just like a real Thanksgiving.  I made vegan/gluten free gravy, brussel sprouts, kale and beet salad, and pumpkin chocolate chip mini cupcakes.

The gravy was sadly forgotten, both in the photo and in my leaving the house.  I'll have to make massive amounts of mashed potatoes this week to eat all of it.  So sad.
The brussel sprouts were roasted in some vegan butter and topped with sea salt. Ah-mazing!  The extra browned bits were my favorite, obviously.  I only set off the fire alarm twice!

The mini cupcakes were perfect.  It was the first time I tried this recipe, from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World", because there are so many other recipes in that cookbook that I already love.  But I wanted something Thanksgiving themed, and I had many, many bags of squash in my freezer.  Technically, they were probably butternut squash chocolate chip cupcakes.  They rose a "Mary Poppins" perfect amount. Sometime vegan cupcakes don't rise as well, or fall after baking, but not these.  I topped them with a tiny dollop of cinnamon icing.  They were so light and moist!

Look at those lovely bottles!  One wine is a Rose from one of my favorite Vermont wineries.  I've visited several and there are definite standouts.  Lincoln Peak is one, the others are Shelburne Vineyards and Honora Winery in the south of the state.  I did not try the Rose, I was drinking Gewurztraminer and I left the Rose as a thank you to the hosts. On the far left is a bottle of Hill Farmstead beer, which my better half got from the brewery, along with two growlers and another bottle of beer. He is a devotee of Hill Farmstead and it is available in only a few select restaurants in Burlington.  Now, every time he is in the Northeastern Kingdom, he has to go and get more beer.

The hands down favorite was the kale and beet salad, because, well, it's Vermont. And we love kale. I had a request for the recipe, and since I was already typing it up, I decided to share it! It turns out much brighter than it looks in the photo; the green kale and red beets and pomegranate actually make it a good looking dish for a Christmas season party as well.

Kale and Beet Salad with Quinoa


1 cup quinoa
4 large beets
1 bunch kale
Seeds of 1 pomegranate

Spiced Walnuts
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbl sugar
2 tbl olive oil

2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup mustard (yellow or dijon)
1 tsp wasabi paste (or chili paste or horseradish)
2 tbl soy sauce
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper


Boil beets in salted water until tender. Rinse under cold water to rub off skins. Chop into bite size pieces.
Chop or shred kale. Prepare a large bowl with ice water (large enough to submerge all of the kale). Steam kale until bright green all the way through. Transfer kale from steam basket to ice bath with tongs. This is how you keep the kale bright green and tender.
Toast the quinoa in a pan, stirring over high heat until the quinoa is a shade or two darker. It should smell nutty and toasty. Add 2 cups water and boil until the quinoa looks like a white dot with a translucent ring around it. All the water should be absorbed.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Mix the sugar, spices, and oil together until blended. Toss the oil mixture with the chopped walnuts and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until the walnuts are toasted and sugar is carmelized.
Heat maple syrup and mustard in a sauce pan and whisk until blended. Add all other ingredients, except lemon juice and simmer until reduced about 1/3.
Let all components come to room temperature. Toss together kale, beets, quinoa, and lemon juice. Mix in the pomegranate seeds and dressing. Before serving, top with walnuts. The salad can be served room temperature or cold.

Friday, November 16, 2012

COTS Speaker Training

I went to a training this morning to become a member of COTS Speaker's Bureau. The training prepares you to give talks and presentations about COTS to school groups and other community members. We spent some time talking about how to prepare for your audience and the two trainers said that they mostly speak to sympathetic groups, but sometimes they are invited to speak to audiences that are less than enthused about COTS' mission.

Oftentimes, COTS uses this as an opportunity to illuminate the faces of family and child homelessness. This is an increasing sector of the homeless population and it pulls at peoples heartstrings to hear about homeless children. I do believe that people should be educated about homelessness and that the stereotype of a homeless person as a drunk, male, bum needs to be broken. However, focusing on families does not necessarily challenge this stereotype.

Now, we have two types: the bum and the innocent child. Families can appear less at fault because the children must be innocent of any mistakes that may have resulted in homelessness and because the adults have the added economic burden of caring for dependents.

What if we look at the "bum"? He is usually characterized as an addict or mentally ill or both. While most of society will admit that addiction and mental illness are diseases, when it comes to homeless or impoverished populations, having a disease does not make them blameless.

I believe this arises from the fact that many people overcome addiction or cope with their mental illness and can function in society. So, we have come to believe that willpower is the cure for addiction and mental illness. It is not. Addiction and mental illness can be treated, not cured.

A person with cancer will earn our sympathy, but a person who has fallen off the sobriety wagon will earn our scorn. Yet, we know that both are diseases. Just as some cancers do not respond treatment, neither do some addictions or mental illnesses respond to treatment.

My boss says the only difference between a homeless person and a housed person is money. And he's right. An alcoholic who has money can afford rehabs, hide his/her addiction, take time off work, or come home drunk. A homeless person cannot enter shelters intoxicated, can be randomly drug tested by employers, and can often end up in jail if they are drunk on the streets. An alcoholic with money may eventually run through all of their funds, but it takes a lot longer and there is a lot of support for this person, not punishments.

There are as many different stories to homelessness as there are homeless people. But just because someone fits the stereotype does not meant that they are a "bum". You probably know someone a lot like them who has a home. They deserve to be treated as individuals and they did not "bring this on themselves". It is a part of a disease and they need treatment.

It's time to stop treating the homeless and impoverished like a subset of our society.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Collection of Photos

I have a few photos from my non-blogging period this fall that I wanted to show off.

First off, the COTS Zumbathon! My awesome coworker is a Zumba instructor and organized a Zumbathon with a bunch of local Zumba teachers! The Daystation, the day shelter where I work, was destroyed by a storm in July of this year. I personally raised $635!!!

A big Thank You to my wonderful family in Cincinnati- aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, and parents! Also thanks to one amazing AmeriCorps and my former AmeriCorps supervisor. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I was afraid there wouldn't be any pictures where I wasn't completely red and confused looking. Fortunately, this one mostly showcases my sweet outfit!

I want to do a whole post on the wedding I went to at the beginning of November, but here is a quick photo to hold you over until then. I'm still waiting for the rest of the photos, but I promise a pic soon.

Here are some preliminary graphics I'm working on for another COTS fundraiser! It's a music compilation CD. More to come if they decide to use my designs.

Look at this beautiful cantalope! I hope you're jealous Claire. This was from my summer CSA. I am now onto my winter CSA, and all its beets.

I'll close with this photo of a sunset over Lake Champlain. Which happens at 4:30 these days . . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Just a little video for your entertainment! This is George Carlin on homelessness. George Carlin is hilarious, but very much NOT WORKSAFE. (He curses a lot.) I have now appropriated the term "elitist" for all things I think rich white people do that are stupid. I use it almost everyday. Interestingly, George narrated Thomas the Tank Engine, so if this ruins your childhood memories, I'm sorry.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cupcakes and Crafting

That 2 Copas wine is excellent!
I had a full 24 hours on call for the hotline I volunteer for this weekend, AND my other half was going out of town. I decided to hunker down for a little crafting and gratuitous chick flick watching. I knitted, started a sewing project, and ate an entire bag of tortilla chips! A quiet interlude in an otherwise busy holiday weekend.

On Friday, I invited a couple who are friends of mine over and made chili and guacamole. They were very appreciative, which always feels good, and they brought wine. The pictures here are from my last entertaining venture. The pink cupcakes are vanilla with raspberry icing and the white ones are ginger cupcakes with ginger icing.

We had an early night and I met up with another friend, N, the next day for lunch and errands. Apparently, the fact that this was the first weekend of hunting season meant all the females were out shopping and lunching on Church St. It was Christmas time level crowded, but I had good company, and we powered through our to-do lists.

Just an extra Croatia shot.
Then we brainstormed on our latest activity- a community based art project called Fun-a-Day. The whole month of January, members create something everyday, and then they all have a showing in February. N helped organize one in Providence, RI and wanted to try it in Burlington. We worked on the website, it looks super slick! I'll be sure to post a link when it goes live.

Next time, I'll try to have some more current photos.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Song Remains the Same

I thought I would talk a little bit about the recent US election, but then I decided to touch on something related but much more compelling to myself.

Social Justice. For me, social justice is a combination of the legal system, societal values and norms, and morality.

So, I am going to address one small matter in that wide and varied subject. It's actually more a matter of linguistics. How does the word equality work against the struggle for social justice in our American, US, society?

The word equality was used extensively during segregation in the US, when "separate but equal" was considered just. It is very important to remember that equal does not mean "the same". Generally speaking, racism is considered very taboo now in our society, but it is not gone. Racist people and institutions have merely changed the words that they use, not the meaning behind them. Many people still believe there are large groups of people within our society who are less, or worse, than their own group.

The phrase "equal opportunity" is most commonly used when speaking of employment, and employers. It means every person who applies for a job, or has a job, will be given an "equal" chance to succeed. I used quotation marks because this is an instance where equal means the same. That means at one small point in time, i.e., when a person is applying for a job, they will be held to the same criteria as all the rest applying for that same job. However, nothing about the way people live their lives in the United States is equal.

A qualifier word, opportunity, is tacked onto equal. Opportunity implies that the people who fail simply were not trying hard enough. If they had worked harder, they could have gone to college. If they had put forth more effort, they would have got the job. If they had made better choices, they wouldn't have gone to jail. And none of that is true.

I am going to use the main theme of a horrible movie about relationships, "He's Just Not That Into You" because it works. The main idea is that when you hear about relationships that succeed despite going against everything you know about human behavior and social norms, it proves the exception, not the rule. You shouldn't keep going out with someone who is not that into you because you believe that is going to magically change one day.

I want to compare that to the stories you hear about people pulling themselves up from nothing, just through hard work and perseverance. These people prove the exception, not the rule. The reason those stories are so popular and get made into movies is because they are so special and so rare. If it was possible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps simply through hard work, everyone would be doing it.

Equal is not the same. We live in a vast, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, multirace country. We are all very different, and unfortunately, not even close to equal. We could be so much closer. With equality so tied up in our national identity, I would say it is a worthy goal of the United States, to strive for equality.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Split me in two, I want to stay forever.

Croatia's Dalmatian Coast was stunning. I mean, look at this:

 While it wasn't planned this way, our trip went from being very high input to very low input as we progressed. In Austria, there were lots of museums, historical attractions, and sights to see. But as we made our way to Croatia, there were less "must sees" and more people watching, meandering, and coffee sipping. In Split, we wandered, alone and individually, sipped drinks as the night crowd paraded down the Riva (promenade) in front of the harbor, went to the beach, and ate delicious, italian-style, pizza and gelato.
At the beach! Almost.
The picture below is from the front door of our apartment building. You can just see the ocean down the way! We were also directly across from the fish market (smelly), around the corner from a Rick Steves recommended pizza place (so good we went there twice), and mere steps away from a fresh juice cart, a gelato stand, and two bakeries.

The old town of Split is build within the walls of the Emperor Diocletian's retirement palace.

You can see the cruise ship tours pouring in.
We spent one sun drenched day on the island of Brac, famous for it's stone, olive oil, and beaches. The olive oil is special because Brac olive trees are all the same, distinctive breed of olive. I think it tastes very green and a little grassy. Delicious on bread. We bought some at the market that had been bottled in glass water bottles. Very authentic.

 The beach has aquamarine water, a beer garden, a nude section, and pebbles, not sand. It makes for very clean, clear water but awfully uncomfortable sunbathing.

Zlatni Rat, world famous beach on Brac
Croatia was the most perfect, chill way to end our European adventure!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A little Ljubljana and a bit of Bled

I found Ljubljana to be a walkable, lively city with a great city center and lots of character. Some others in my party had a little culture shock I believe, and didn't appreciate Ljubljana's charms after Austria's clean, accessible, and historic attractions.

You can't tell in my picture, since it's dark, but the center of town is where three bridges are crossing the river. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and markets lining the promenades along the river. We saw lots of students, sketching, hanging out, and painting each others faces. We stayed in a more residential section of town, in a soviet style block apartment building, that was furnished entirely with IKEA furniture. I love the contrast between the old and the new in post communist countries.

One day, we took a bus to Lake Bled and strolled all the way around it. Several stops had to be made, for coffee, lunch and a beer, and a boat ride to the church in the middle of the island.  We drank coffee on the veranda of Tito's villa, looking out over the lake. (Tito was the dictator of communist Yugoslavia. He is often called the only true Yugoslavian because he ruled over so many disparate ethnic groups.) The day was warm, and hazy, which dampened the pristine beauty that is usually conveyed in pictures of Bled. While not breathtaking, it was charming and produced a quiet, relaxing day.

Our last stop was for a pastry before we got back on the bus. Bled's signature cake is about 5 inches of eggy pastry cream layered between a top and bottom layer of thin, crispy pastry dough. There is no picture. It was very difficult to eat with a plastic fork standing at the bus stop, but I persevered.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The hills are alive!

With our EuroRail Pass, we got a first class seat on the train to Salzburg. They gave us candy and a German language newspaper! We stayed in Salzburg for two, very soft and fog soaked, days.

Our room was in a serene old convent, right in the center of town. While we did not take a Sound of Music tour, I made sure to educate Taylor on all the important sights, and songs, associated with Maria Von Trapp. 

This is not in the Sound of Music.

Rick Steves guided us through the city on our first day and we ended up at the famous Augustiner Monastery (and Brewery). This is the kind of place Taylor could live in. We made new friends (obviously) at our long wooden table and our only regret is that we didn't go back the next night.

Our new friend made us move so that we had good lighting. Thank god, I think this is the best pic of us. Ever.
On our second day, we spent half of the day touring a corner of Germany by bus. We rode up into the Alps, out of Salzburg's fog, and spotted Hitler's Eagle's Nest atop a peak. This lake is called King's Lake in German merely for its superior beauty- it's the King of Lakes. We strolled along the banks, which you can also canoe along!, to a lookout point for this photo.

This is a vegetarian restaurant where I got some actual veggie protein before heading into Slovenia and Croatia, where I can't even begin to pronounce all the words for ham.

On another food related note, Salzburg is where my Manner addiction got a little out of hand. One night, I really needed a little snack before bed, but Salzburg is a quiet little town, and not even the grocery stores were open. Thankfully, we found a vending machine. With Manner. And I bought all five packages in the machine. I had to use up my Euro coins!

Hazelnut is the usual flavor, but I also tried them in plain chocolate and lemon (yummy)!