Friday, July 24, 2009

Moved, In So Many Ways

I have so much I want to blog about, but I haven't had time! First there was the packing. And painting and other prep work. Then the moving. And now? The unpacking. Oh, the unpacking seems like it will never end, though it was satisfying to put all of our empty boxes out in the recycling the other day. Other satisfying moments have been moving furniture to places where it looks good, unpacking most boxes, being able to find all of my clothes, and enjoying the new space.

The Good
I realized that we may actually be able to successfully integrate all of our stuff--and that it would look homey. (Lance hasn't brought his piles of wood and various random objects over yet, so this may yet me tested).

K and M left us a lovely entertainment center, and it holds all of our cookbooks (4 shelves, M, 4!!), our various bottles of homebrew and liquor, DVDs, and other detrius that I haven't found a place for yet.

M also left me a *drumroll* KitchenAid. Now, you all know that I'm a baker. And I've been obsessed about the KitchenAid (as has Lance) for a long time. After using a different brand of stand mixer, I can tell you that it's really a well-designed machine, meant to last and really be used. And if you cook a lot, it's totally worth the investment. I honestly thought I'd have to wait until I got it as a wedding gift in 300 years or was rich or something.

We also have a huge front yard and back yard! When I came over from the apartment, I found all the friends who helped us move sitting out front, happy. I anticipate having parties in which people hang out in the back yard.

We have a ceiling fan and light fixture, and his name is Shocky. Shocky doesn't like it when you touch the chains to turn on and off the light, and he will let you know by transmitting an electrical current through your body. Luckily, Lance discovered this and not me. Unluckily, I touched Shocky's cords with a metal shelf and got a nice jolt.

The new place also has no closets, which means I can't hide all of my craft/hobby stuff away neatly. It also means that our kitchen is woefully lacking in storage. This will be remedied by putting up shelving and purging excess belongings. Of course, I love clothes and own lots of them, so closet-sharing should be...interesting.


I have lots of pictures, so many pictures. And I will take more once the dust has settled. But for now I'll leave you with a picture of the newest addition to our family, Neko.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

That Was Quick

This morning, I was asked to serve on my university's Staff Senate. I had been nominated for a position a few months ago, but I didn't win the election. Today, the chair needed to replace a senator, and as first runner up in the election, I was asked to serve.

I had reservations about being on a campus governing body. They can get things done, but usually only after innumerable meetings, committees, and resolutions. I really hate having to go through a convoluted system to get tasks accomplished.

At the same time, however, I recognize that government at this level is useful. It provides a voice for the staff, helps to shape policies and procedures, and keeps an eye on state legislation that affects staff pay and benefits. The good they do far outweighs the hassle of attending meetings and serving on committees. Even though I feel like those meetings and committees often waste my time, I also believe that what they can accomplish overcomes that waste.

So I accepted the position, feeling both excitement for the chance to participate and dread for what I'll have to put up with for a year.

This afternoon I got a call apologizing that I was in fact not needed for the position. Oops, sorry, no longer a senator! Well, it was fun for the four hours it lasted...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

July! July!

July is shaping up to be a hectic month. Or eventful, at the very least. I gave myself June to relax and recharge after finishing up my degree, but now it's time to start looking ahead to PhD programs or new jobs.

The largest event on the horizon is our impending move. We found a wonderful duplex through a friend that's still within biking distance of work for me. It has a yard. I can paint. Best of all, we'll only have one shared wall and won't have to listen to the sounds of construction when they work on the burned-out apartment complex.

Moving--or at least how I like to move--requires time, organization, and dedication. I like to sort through my belongings and cast off the things I don't have a use for anymore. The new house is kind of small, so it becomes even more important to get rid of useless stuff and creatively use the space we have.

Other July events include a trip to Portland later this month. I get to go for work, which is really exciting, so when I'm not doing conference stuff, I'll be checking out Portland sights. Best of all, I get to travel with a good friend. Conveniently, we'll be moved right before the trip, so hopefully it'll be a good break from sorting and unpacking!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Staff of Life

I want to talk about something important today. I want to talk about bread.

When you're trying to eat healthy, mainstream thought tells us we should avoid bread. Bread is full of carbs! diet gurus shout at us. Don't eat bread--it'll make you fat!

I call bullshit.

The problem with bread is not bread itself. Humans have been eating bread since they started cultivating grain thousands of years ago. How can something that we've subsisted on for so long suddenly be the source of the obesity epidemic?

The answer is that commercially produced bread is...well, less than healthy. Or less than bread. It's an engineered product pumped full of sugar and chemicals to appeal to our desire for soft, ultra-palatable food. There's a reason why white bread is so popular and why really good wheat bread--if full of whole-grain goodness--is difficult to find outside of a natural food store. And commercially produced wheat bread is nothing but brown white bread with a deceptive "made with whole grains" label slapped on it.

Now, I haven't bought that kind of bread in a very long time. I normally go for a sprouted grain bread made by Ozark Natural Breads that is dense and well made. In my opinion, it has a good texture and can in no way be confused with the soft, cakey bread that many folks identify as "bread".

Remember yesterday when I said something about eating peas on a piece of toasted homemade bread? Well, recently I made a 100% whole wheat bread (with Lance's assistance and guidance). And while time consuming, it was reasonably easy. I'd never really made bread before, and my loaves turned out perfectly--and I knew what was in them.

The secret to a good, airy whole wheat bread--many people don't like whole wheat bread because it's so dense or dry--is to first make a sponge and to include a bit of sweetener. You mix together warm water, yeast, some flour, and honey and let it sit for an hour. The sugars give the yeast something to get it going, and it digests the whole wheat flour a little faster than it might without it. I ended up using part agave syrup because I didn't have quite enough honey, and the yeast really liked it.

After the sponge ferments for a bit, you mix in the rest of the ingredients: salt, oil (also key for a moister loaf) and more whole wheat flour. Knead until elastic, which gets the gluten forming--you have to knead and knead, but it's kind of fun and totally pays off.

A 1.5-2 hour rising, and then the loaves are ready to be shaped and let sit for another 45 minutes for the final rising. Here they are with their tops slashed, ready for the oven. If you don't want to make traditional loaves, you can also shape them into other formats, such as Lance's happy little boule:

The point is that bread does take time to make, but it's totally worth it. And most of that time is just waiting for the yeast to do its work! You get the satisfaction of knowing you aren't supporting companies that offer up little more than bread-flavored swill, and it's far more satisfying to slice into your own loaf then to pull pre-sliced bread from a bag.

Spread it with a little jam (homemade strawberry-rhubarb preserves are pretty good on it, which you see in the picture), slice it up for sandwiches, or eat a chunk with a fresh garden salad, and you'll understand why bread is considered vital to human meals throughout history.