Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflection amid song

As this semester comes to a close, with impending flights to warmer, family-filled places and an end to this grading, I've been thinking a lot (too much?!) about all the things that have come together to make this semester feel so auspicious,* so productive, so full of hope. These things are many, and perhaps will be elaborated upon further in blog posts to come, but one of them has most certainly been a return to our roots for both Justin and me--musical satisfaction and conversation/affection, respectively. Interestingly enough, both of these sets of roots have been planted in the soil provided by a new friend, who has brought with him both reminders of Annas and Justins past, and a chance for some guerrilla wassailing.

Guerrilla waissalling, or glorified Christmas caroling,  is a lovely combination of four-part harmony and college spontaneity.  Justin had been practicing a few songs with a group of (mostly) UW undergrads for the last few weeks, which all culminated in several outings to coffee shops and breakfast nooks, pizza places and public buses, complete with vibrant renditions of Joy to the World and We Three Kings.

Here, the waissallers regaled a friend of ours with song. I particularly love the gleeful look on our friend's face (and his thumbs-up!) as he took in the beautiful voices and wondered how he got so lucky:

*I first came to know the word "auspicious" when my high school roommate was studying for the SATs and would go around saying "'auspicious' is an auspicious word." Later, on the first day of training when I worked at Interlochen, the Intermediate Girls Lakeside staff did an icebreaker where we had to go around and say our names along with an adjective that began with the same letter as our names. I said "Auspicious Anna."  The next day, the administrators asked if I wanted to be a unit leader for the summer (which included a pay raise and slightly more prestige). I accepted, not knowing why they chose me even though it was my first summer at Interlochen and I was younger than many of the other counselors. Later in the summer, when I asked my boss why I was chosen for this position, she said it was because I had used the word "auspicious" during that icebreaker on the first day of the summer.  An auspicious word indeed.

Shout Out!

Much-needed appreciation to power me through this end-of-semester grading:

The UW student paper, the Badger Herald, has this feature called "Shout-Outs" where people can give shout-outs (SO, or antishout-outs--ASO) to whatever or whomever they want, in an anonymous fashion if they so prefer. A friend told me that I got my very own SO today! Never have my teaching warm-fuzzies been more strongly felt...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Digging through the archives...

This post might be more appropriate for my other, now mostly-defunct, blog, but I was just re-reading my dissertation proposal from last year and was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed reading it, as a document for its own sake! I thought I'd share the first page here, in hopes of feedback or other ideas it might spur. Let me know what you think, eh? 

Few images are more evocative of rural places, of domesticity, and of a tranquil American past than that of the middle-aged white farm wife, with her hair in a bun and an apron around her waist, pouring fruit into glass jars, immersing the jars into kettles of hot water, and then, when the jars have cooled, lining them up on a cupboard shelf, neat and tidy and ready to nourish her family through the winter. 

With today’s increased interest in eating locally and in the do-it-yourself movement—exemplified by the popularity of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle—this nostalgic image has re-emerged and taken on a new sheen. A New York Times article from May 2009 describes home canning in the twenty-first century as a “quasi-political act,” because many of its new practitioners see it as a way of opting out of the food industry, out of scientific modernity and technology. [1]

One of the characters depicted in this Times article, a woman who has published a canning cookbook, Eugenia Bone, exemplifies this new movement within home canning. Not only does she look very different from the housewives of yore—the article describes her as having “spent her youth in a plastic miniskirt, smoking and running between punk music shows on the Lower East Side”—but she also flouts the restrictions scientific and government regulations have placed upon home canning. She delights in a jar of tuna three years old, two years past the USDA recommendations: “The Feds wouldn’t like it…But it’s still going to make a great lunch.” This confidence Bone displays in the safety of foods processed in her own kitchen stands in stark contrast to the increasing suspicions American consumers harbor against industrially-processed foods.

These rising concerns about industrial food safety are one reason people are picking up on this renewed trend of home canning. Another reason is perhaps revealed in this rich statement Eugenia Bone makes about the meaning of her home-canned products: “The jars are like characters, with story lines that I remember…Seeing them brings back the farm where I bought that case of artichokes, or the day we picked all those cherries.” Industrially-processed foods, and especially commercial cans with their opaque containers and colorful labels, are characters without stories, without history. Or, rather, with concealed histories.  They enter our homes and our cupboards as anonymous members of enormous grocery stores displays. If they evoke memory, it is of a standard, prosaic shopping practice that almost all American consumers experience regularly. 

This project aims to uncover those concealed histories, to find the stories inside the opaque industrial can. Although some Americans may now be moving back to the practice of home canning and eating locally produced foods, it is important to understand what led Americans away from that model in the first place, over a hundred years ago. Commercially canned foods were among the earliest processed food products, and were, in many ways, a foreign way of eating for Americans. This is a story of how Americans came to view a metal can as an important element in their cupboards, how they learned to trust its unknown and unseen contents, and how an increasing reliance on processed foods affected their sense of connection to the environments around them.    

[1] Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (HarperCollins, 2007) follows the author and her family as they try to eat only locally grown foods for a full year; Julia Moskin, “Preserving Time in a Bottle (or a Jar),” The New York Times, May 27, 2009.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The emails I received from my brother today

Your nephew sleeps well in the car.

 Thumbs are tucked in for safekeeping.
 Mouth is slightly ajar for optimal respiration.
 Toes twitch periodically to indicate that Jeremy has entered the dreaming phase of sleep.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

That time of year...

...when the accidental squash are running away with productivity! All those squash seeds from last years' compost that got randomly spread throughout our garden yielded a hefty haul of butternut and delicata and carnival and sweet dumpling and ambercup and maybe even some unidentified squashes!

Eddie Vedder doesn't quite know what to make of all this...

And what should we make of all this? Any recipe or serving ideas?

Visions of squash soup and stuffed squash and squash/bean enchiladas and sugar plum fairies are dancing through my head!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


To follow up on the last post, a passage from Tillie Olsen's Yonnondio: From the Thirties, that captures so well the toil and fast pace and difficulty of canning in an early twentieth century kitchen, with sick kids and flies and heat to boot:

     "In the humid kitchen, Anna works on alone. Mazie lies swathed in sweated sleep in the baking bedroom. Jimmie and Jeff sleep under the kitchen table, their exhausted bodies, their hair damp and clinging to their perspiring heads, given them the look of drowned children. Ben lies in sleep or in a sleep of swoon, his poor heaving chest laboring on at its breathing. Bess has subsided in her basket on a chair where, if she frets, Anna can sprinkle her with water or try to ease the heat rash by sponging. The last batch of jelly is on the stove. Between stirring and skimming, and changing the wet packs on Ben, Anna peels and cuts the canning peaches--two more lugs to go. If only all will sleep awhile. She begins to sing softly--I saw a ship a-sailing, a-sailing on the sea--it clears her head. The drone of fruit flies and Ben's rusty breathing are very loud in the unmoving, heavy air. Bess begins to fuss again. There, there, Bessie, there, there, stopping to sponge down the oozing sores on the tiny body. There. Skim, stir; sprinkle Bess; pit, peel and cut; sponge; skim, stir. Any second the jelly will be right and must not wait. Shall she wake up Jimmie and ask him to blow a feather to keep Bess quiet? No, he'll wake cranky, he's just a baby hisself, let him sleep. Skim, stir; sprinkle; change the wet packs on Ben; pit, peel and cut; sponge. This time it does not soothe--Bess stiffens her body, flails her fists, begins to scream in misery. Just then the jelly begins to boil. There is nothing for it but to take Bess up, jounce her on a hip (there, there) and with her one free hand frantically skim and ladle. There, there.  The batch is poured and capped and sealed, all one-handed, jiggling-hipped. There, there, it is done."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Toiling away in the kitchen...

So it's possible that that last applesauce post of mine made it seem like this whole canning business is easy-peasy, but in fact, it's damn hard work.  One of the reasons I wanted to try my hand at canning (besides the obvious fact that it helps us eat more locally year-round, by preserving summer crops grown in the Madison area for eating in the winter and spring) was that I wanted to have a better sense of connection to the men and women I write about who canned food in the home and factory environments in the early twentieth century. The men in the factory had a whole different set of issues to deal with, but those women at home were doing much of the same sort of work that I'm trying my hand out.  Well, by "much of the same," I may mean that the general process of sterilization and preservation of food by heat and vacuum sealing was the same, but of course many of them had to deal with a lack of running water, or stoves that had to be supplied with firewood and stoked by hand, or kitchens with no ventilation, or homes with nothing like the air conditioning that sometimes pumps through our house and keeps the home environment tolerable even as the water in the canner boils away. So, not really the same at all.

Walking the walk

(a post from a couple of months ago that I never actually published, but that makes sense to post before I write about my more recent canning adventures)

After all of this writing and talking about canned food, I decided it was time to actually try my hand at this home canning business.

Two instances came together perfectly to enable me to do just that: (1) Last week, I saw a box sitting by the dumpster outside our house. People often put things there when they no longer want them, but they're not exactly trash. I looked inside the box and what should I find, but 8 perfect quart-size Mason jars! and (2) After my recent place-based workshop [end of May 2010, focused on energy in the upper Midwest], there was lots of food left over from the snacks that had been purchased for the trip, among them many, many apples. We gave away as much of this food as possible, but I still ended upcoming home with several bags of apples. So, though they weren't garden fresh or even local, these apples seemed like a perfect first canning project.

So, I washed them and I peeled them:

Then I chopped them and I cooked them:
Then, while the apples cooked, I sterilized and heated those mason jars in a big boiling water canner, courtesy of Mom Horn:

And after the apples were hot (and I helped along their puree-ing with an immersion blender) and the jars were sterilized, I filled up the jars, wiped the rims with a clean towel, put on the new lids and sterilized screw-caps, and put the filled jars back in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Afterwards, I removed the filled jars with a jar-lifter, and voila! canned applesauce, ready for winter eating. Yum.

Stay tuned for August pickles and corn relish...

Monday, July 5, 2010

PEOPLE: In pictures

My last post gave the nitty gritty about the class I've been teaching, but here I'd like to share some photos and some reflections.  Because I feel like I probably shouldn't show images of my students without their permission, I'm going to stick to the slightly-less-evocative hand and back and food shots:

Day 3: Dairy Barn
Pictured below: (1) Teacher helping student tie on plastic food protectors (to protect from cow poo in the dairy barn!); (2) a sad cow, chained up, buck-toothed, and seemingly pleading for help; (3) one of my students sticking his arm into a cow's fistula:

Day 4: Gardening at FH King
 Pictured below: (1) Collards growing on the student farm; (2) A Madison scene if ever there was one; (3) The students made a salad with lettuce, mustard greens, and mesclun mix from the garden (and some of them even ate it!):

Day 8: Badger Rock Middle School
Pictured below: (1) A beautiful purple cabbage just beginning to make its way into the world, (2) Student friendship, (3) Robert Pierce and his daughter Shelly, the masterminds behind the South Madison Farmer's Market and the Madison branch of Growing Power:

Day 9: L'Etoile
Pictured below: (1) Chef Tory Miller showing the students a map of Wisconsin and the over 70 farms that deliver produce to L'Etoile, one of Madison's finest restaurants, (2) Tory cooking up a fancy meal for the kids, reflected in the mirror above his cooking table, (3) The fancy meal itself: quiche, greens, and a parmesan crisp

Day 10: Porchlight
Pictured Below: (1) Students mixing up the batter for chocolate chip scones, (2) The Porchlight Products director explaining to the students how she works with formerly homeless adults and trains them in food production using locally-sourced foods, (3) The delicious scones in all their glory, (4) The students got to make their own strawberry jam, which is sold in shops across Madison (5) with this label! (6) One of my students pouring hot jam into a jar for canning:

Pictures from many days: Food
Pictured below: (1) Salsa the kids made using fair trade tomatoes, in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, on Day 5; (2) Juneberries foraged from several trees on campus, on Day 6; (3) Fruit salad made to contrast the kind served frozen and in heavy syrups in school cafeteria, on Day 7

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Now that the whole experience is over, I feel like I finally have the distance (and the time) to write a little bit about what I've been doing for the past three weeks. I had the great fortune to be able to design and teach a class on food and agricultural systems, called "You Are What You Eat," for an innovative program on campus known as PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence), which is a pre-college pipeline program for students of color.  If the students stay in the program for the full six years, beginning in seventh grade (which includes summer classes and after-school programs and standardized test prep), and get into any University of Wisconsin system university, they get to go for free! So, it has the great potential to really make a difference in expanding college opportunities for kids from under-represented groups. This year was actually the first year that students graduated from college who had begun PEOPLE in the seventh grade, and there were 60 PEOPLE scholars in this year's graduating class at UW-Madison. So, in almost all ways, a real success.

In any case, I (along with a friend of mine who was my co-teacher) got to teach a middle school summer class, with thirteen students, who were rising seventh, eighth, and ninth graders from around the city of Madison. I'd spent the last several months planning the curriculum for this class, and still ended up staying late almost every night trying to get everything together before class the next day. Although many of the administrators did a good job of mis-characterizing our class as one about "nutrition," it was actually much more broadly conceived, with a week on Production, one on Distribution, and one on Consumption, or, as we translated it for the kids "where your food comes from, how it gets to you, and how you eat it."

Here's an outline of the syllabus, including all our awesome field trips and the snacks we had each day:

Week 1: Introduction/Production 
  • Day 1: INTRODUCTION TO FOOD SYSTEMS; creating food system collages (Snack: Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, Crackers, Oranges, Raisins)
  • Day 2: WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE? AND DOCUMENTARIES; Media scavenger hunt around campus (Snack: Popcorn)
  • Day 3: ANIMALS; Field trip to Babcock Dairy Store and UW cow barn   (Snack: Babcock ice cream)
  • Day 4: PLANTS AND GARDENING; Field trip to F.H. King student farm (Snack: hand-picked salad)
  • Day 5: LABOR AND FAIR TRADE; Lesson on Coalition of Immokalee Workers (Snack: salsa with locally-grown tomatoes)
Week 2: Distribution 
  • Day 6: LOCAL FOOD AND FOOD MILES; How far does your food travel activity (Snack: Juneberries foraged on campus)
  • Day 7: SCHOOL LUNCH; Debating Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (Snack: Fresh-made fruit cups)
  • Day 8: SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION; Field trip to the Badger Rock Middle School (Snack: PEAT program lunch)
  • Day 9: RESTAURANTS; Field trip and cooking lesson with L'Etoile's Chef Tory Miller (Snack: broccoli quiche, fresh greens with house-made raspberry vinaigrette, and parmesan crips)
  • Day 10: HOMELESSNESS AND FOOD PRODUCTION; Field trip and kitchen work at Porchlight
  • (Snack: Home-made chocolate chip scones and strawberry jam)
Week 3: Consumption
  • Day 11: FOOD ADVERTISING; Design your own food commercial activity (Snack: oranges, apples, carrot, cucumber, and celery sticks with hummus and peanut butter)
  • Day 12: FOOD CULTURE; What the World Eats activity (Snack: home-made spring rolls!)
  • Day 13: FARMERS MARKETS; Field trip to Dane County Wednesday Market (Snack: baguette, cheese curds, raspberries, strawberries, sugar-snap peas)
  • Day 14: FOOD WASTE AND RECYCLING; Sorting trash activity, making thank you cards, and salsa recipe creations (Snack: home-made salsas)
  • Day 15: LAST DAY AND CELEBRATION!; wrap-up and closure (Snack: home-baked chocolate chip cookies!)
Photos and more thoughts to come in the next post...

    Saturday, June 26, 2010


    To catch up on overdue posts, and to continue the theme of my last pre-anniversary post,  here's a little peek into the celebration of Anna+Justin one year later.

    Although our official anniversary (of the ceremony day, June 14) was on Monday, both because I had to teach that day (the first day of my PEOPLE program class! about which I'll write more soon) and because we wanted to honor our whole wedding weekend as much as that one day, we did a lot of our celebrating on the Sunday before. The plans for the day mutated various times, and bike rides with friends and canoe trips were prevented by closed signs and rainy weather predictions.  So, we embraced the strawberry season that it was to take a trip to JenEhr Family Farm, the only certified organic strawberry farm in this part of Dane County (did you know that strawberries are #3 on the list of the "dirty dozen"--fruits/vegetables that are the most laden with pesticides when not organic?)

    So, we traveled a few miles down the road to gather 18 pounds worth of delicious, local, organic strawberries. As we began picking, a little boy ran right by our row, screaming "STRAWBERRIES!" at the top of his lungs, face and shirt covered in pink-red stains. Exactly.

    After a day of berry-picking, a picnic lunch, and a dinner at a yummy Vietnamese-Thai place in town, we gorged ourselves on cake and strawberries.  Since the Willy St. Co-op bakery had made our two wedding cakes (chocolate and carrot) last year, we decided to order a smaller version of the chocolate wedding cake to eat on our first anniversary. So, we had a lot of chocolate cake. So much cake. We ate it for several days on end, froze some of it, and took some of it to a potluck and Time's Up party.
    The next day, on the actual anniversary, after I taught my first class, Justin met me for lunch at an Italian place downtown that our friends had been raving about for the last year or so. We had a eggplant panini with a really interesting carrot-white bean-dill soup and margherita pizza with really well-dressed greens.  The meal was not as outstanding as we might have hoped, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway (andthe company and conversation were unparalleled).
    That night, we dined at an even nicer place: Casa Zeide-Horn, and enjoyed beautiful plates of Mexican salad and strawberry daiquiris Justin whipped up with our anniversary strawberries (which we continued eating and eating, and baking with, and freezing, and pureeing, and taking to our frisbee team for the rest of the week).
    Finally, to conclude our festivities, we indulged in my favorite part of the anniversary, the reading of our one-year letters! At our wedding last year, we had a table with little slips of paper for people to write notes for us to open on our first anniversary. We savored each and every one, taking in the love and the humor and the wittiness of our friends, reliving the evening and the joy of our wedding and reception.  I wish we'd had everyone write us letters for our 2nd and 3rd and 4th and on and on anniversaries... (hint, hint)
    To sink more deeply into nostalgia, we watched a video of our wedding ceremony, read our vows to one another, watched the videos of our wedding guests sharing their wishes for us, and looked through our wedding scrapbook. We also began a tradition of writing each other letters, which we hope to do every year on our anniversary, and then to enclose them in an anniversary scrapbook I made for us this year. It's been a heck of a year, but I know the best is still to come.  Happy sigh.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Harvest, with days to spare

    Last night, we finally made it out to Harvest (a fine-dining restaurant in Madison that uses local and organic ingredients) to use one of the gift certificates we'd been given for our wedding by my dearest high school friends NB, RS, and AM. With only one week until our first anniversary (!) and an impending gift certificate expiration date, we snuck in this dinner just in the nick of time.

    The whole experience was lovely, and though some of the food was a bit over-salted, we were impressed by the range and creativity of their offerings.

    Compliments of the chef, a fresh spring garlic puree soup and a warm, toasty roll:

    A delicious cocktail, the bee's knees (with a real piece of honey on comb stuck in for good measure!):

    Our first courses, Seared Sea Scallops with Parsnip Chips and Parsnip Puree, and Grilled Asparagus with Farro, Spinach, and House-Made Ricotta:
    Then, for our main course we shared the House-Made Cavatelli Pasta with Asparagus, Mint, Chili, and Olive Oil and three other sides: Spinach with Crispy Garbanzos, Chickpea Fries, and the Seasonal Mushrooms Hen of the Woods.
    Finally, for dessert, we had the Chocolate Almond Cake with Caramel and the House-Made Mint Ice Cream (which actually tasted like mint leaves!), along with two Lavender Lemon Sugar Cookies, compliments of the chef:

    Throughout it all, we thought of and sent vibes of love and gratitude to our friends who gave us this night, and to everyone who shared our wedding with us, almost a year ago.


    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Birthday scavenger hunt!

    If you know me, you know I love a good scavenger hunt (see, for reference, my first birthday at Wash U on my freshman floor; my 20th birthday with a cross-campus hunt; Justin's 20th birthday with a cross-city hunt; our wedding weekend with a cross-Madison hunt; and many others). And, it turns out, my friends in Madison know me!

    Last Thursday, on the night before my birthday, some philosopher friends and a couple of others threw a surprise birthday party for me, full of delicious food...

    ...and an even more delicious scavenger hunt. The wonderful mind that has brought us Shakespeare reading nights and visits to the American Players Theatre and rollicking games of Psychiatrist or Time's Up and wisdom on the alienability of bodily rights (and so much more!), our friend Hallie, crafted one of the most complicated and intricate scavenger hunts and riddle games I've ever seen. I'm sure my synopsis won't do it justice, but each team of two had to work their way through the following seven clues, each of which refers to a specific holiday:

    The number of the month
    in which this holiday persists,
    Minus that of the month
    in which Caesar ceased to exist,
    Is a day of the year,
    Familiar to your ear.

    To figure out which holiday,
    You've been assigned, here is your way:

    Take the last name of the red-haired gent,
    Who is not on this party's roll-call,
    But who lives with someone who has spent,
    This evening with us all.
    Now combine that name with a syllable,
    Within the name of the birthday girl.

    Should you wonder which friends of Anna's are timely, examine
    Old Facebook posts tomorrow night, and then look at those
    Acquaintance(s) who have yet to wish her happy B-day,
    Be-hold! You'll see who
    Forgot. What day (besides Anna's birthday) is riddle here

    What Day?
    The worst day for those still in school,
    In honor of those who are done,
    The last day for any of these fools,
    To spend any time in the sun.

    It's a day that all science teachers love,
    And that every hippie fancies,
    It even rhymes with the end state of,
    Most non-terminated pregnancies

    A thin room,
    Not for meals or rest.

    An exclamation,
    sometimes said with zest.
    Slowly giving up,
    the breast.

    What Day am I?
    My first syllable is for bravery
    Though, for that quality I am not praised,
    My third (to engage in a little knavery)
    Rhymes with the last word of each phrase:
    On Greeks, the Cyclops _______.
    On Turkey, Nala the Cat ________.
    On the products of Stephen's cooking, you ______.

    After correctly guessing each of these clues, we got to take yet another rhyming clue from the corresponding month that led us to a specific trinket in Hallie's apartment, hidden away in hats and under book covers, in jewelry boxes and vitamin bottles, on cat posts and under pillows, and in egg racks. First team to collect all seven trinkets was the winner!  (My team came very, very close, but Justin's team squeaked ahead to take the lead).

    Anyone want to play along and guess some of the answers to these clues? Like I said, each clue refers to a specific American, well-known holiday. Genius.

    It was an awesome beginning to a purely wonderful birthday, filled with bike rides to Lake Mendota parks and college reunions, phone calls and hugs, St. Louis Thai food and best friends on all sides. Thanks to all who helped make it so sweet!

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Mix CDs

    A few weeks ago, one of my favorite blogs, Accordions and Lace, (which I first discovered as a wedding blog, but which has now become a wonderful mix of food writing, observations on life, and thoughts on relationships and family) proposed a mix CD exchange, in which her readers signed up and she then assigned everyone a buddy for whom they'd create a mix CD, along with cover art. I thought this was a totally awesome idea, that really captured the things I love about the social networking possible on the internet and about creativity and thoughtful mail. So, I signed up and was soon sent the name of another A&L reader in Philadelphia.

    At first, I had a hard time coming up with a list of songs to put on this CD--there were just too many that I loved, and I wasn't sure how to narrow them down, or how to find cohesion. But then, I noticed that several of the songs had animals in the titles or in the artists' names. So, I decided to go with the animal theme and to create a mix CD called "Menagerie," where every song or band had an animal in it. The cover art naturally flowed from there, as I depicted the menagerie present within the songs, along with little numbers matching the corresponding track.

    Here are the fruits of my labor, along with the track list (click on the image to enlarge), if anyone's interested...  How many of the animals can you name without checking the track list?

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Wisconsin Film Festival 2010!

    This past weekend was the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival, and although we were only able to see a small portion of all the films (there must have been at least a hundred!), we did catch some real winners. Some trailers and links or small blurbs are below. 

    The first night, on Thursday, we saw a series of British short films, and although 4 of the 5 were really great, the first two particularly stood out to us. They were both about the particular difficulties about adolescence, but approached this issue from such dramatically different perspectives and styles that they complemented each other perfectly (one leaving you shocked and with tears, the other with smiles).


    Love Does Grow On Trees

    Then, on Friday, we saw a Romanian film, "Police, Adjective," that was billed as the anti-Law-and-Order or any other cop drama on television, in that it showed the tedium of police life, in contrast to the fast-paced, action-packed appearance of police work on television. Read a great New York Times review of the film here
    and then watch the trailer:

    On Saturday, we got to cinematically travel to Justin's home state of Oklahoma, to learn more about the worst environmental disaster in the country, Tar Creek, and all the awful, unfair, disgusting things that are happening in the attempt to address the human and environmental impacts of this relic of the country's mining past. The thing I liked most about this film was how clear it was that "environmental damage" really comes in the form of human damage--developmental and learning disabilities in children from lead poisoning, collapsed homes, financial ruin, corrupt politicians, and disenfranchisement on all levels...

    And then on the last day, I got to see two films that were paired together and gave different glimpses into the American prison system. The first, A Life Taken, about the case of Shawn Drumgold, a man who was wrongly convicted of murder and who spent 15 years in prison before finally being released. And then, Girls On the Wall, one of the most moving films I've seen in a long time, about a drama program at a juvenile detention center for girls.  This was a film that made me cry and smile, reaffirmed my convictions about the importance of processing emotion and trauma through creativity, and brought home just how much the cycle of difficult and traumatic lives gets passed down from parent to child and how deeply rooted "criminal" behavior is in psychological turmoil:

    Anyone else seen any good films lately?

    Thursday, April 8, 2010


    Among the more exciting food-related episodes in the last month or so are the cooking of Anna-inspired or Anna-fostered dishes all over the place (or at least in two other Midwestern places)!

    Two of my very best friends, MC and NB, have been cooking beautiful food that looks like this:

    MC's creations, using recipes and spices I sent for her birthday

    and this:

    NB's rendition of the enchiladas Tom Y. made so deliciously for our Bayless night a few weeks ago

    These photos and the knowledge of the experiences that accompanied them have made me unspeakably happy. If only I could be doing this sort of cooking with all of my friends! If anyone else is secretly inspired out there, do pass on the stories...

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Jonathan's Favorite Game

    Turns out all our nephews like this game at the four-month-old stage! This is a tribute video to our sister-in-law Amy and other nephew Jeremy (you can see their version here).

    Do You Like the Word.... (Click Here)

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Nephew Jonathan!

    After time in the archives and all around California on my own, Justin joined me a few days ago and we traveled to Santa Rosa, CA to meet our new nephew Jonathan! Though Jessica and Jason welcomed him to the family almost four months ago, we just now have had the chance to come out here to visit. It's already been a wonderful couple of days with Jonathan, full of tummy-rubbing and funny voices and baby cooing (and Justin's first try at diaper-changing!). We've also really enjoyed getting to spend time with Jessica and Jason, going to farmer's markets and (soon) wine country, talking about family, and getting to see what their lives are like out here.
    We still have three more days of California fun and family before getting back to a Wisconsin spring in April. Happiness all around.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    All I managed to capture of Sacramento, in photo form

    Although my three days here mostly looked like this:

    I also managed to see (and almost taste!) some of these (who knew oranges grew on trees?!):

    And smell some of these:

    And do some of this:

     ...next to this: