Posts Tagged ‘local’

Unapologetic

I was going to go to the Y for another murderous upper body weight lifting workout when I opened my bag and realized I had not swapped out yesterday’s cold weather running gear for clean, not soaking wet, short-sleeved, indoor appropriate anything to wear.

Rather than wear soaking wet, long-sleeved, outdoor, dirty clothes to lug around heavy weights, I bagged on my workout and decided to go for a walk. I headed east on Main Street and decided since I had my camera with me that today was as good as any day for another round of Photos Around Richmond. I think I only do this in January, when the city itself is not especially pretty, and when the weather is not especially fabulous, but then I am unlikely to waste a perfectly beautiful lunch hour trundling around with the camera.

As I headed east, I decided the top of the hill on Main Street where Rte. 5 and Main St. intersect would be my destination. Being a non-native Richmonder, I am not sure whether this is actually Church Hill or it is one of the other hills (I have also seen it labeled Union Hill on a map). Either way, this is where I was going. This is the hill I run up on my hill training days.


And this is how it looks from the runner’s perspective as you are just getting started going up.

Fortunately, today I was not running up the hill, just doing the aforementioned trundling (in 3 inch high wedge boots…my feet are very unhappy with this poor planning on my part). From almost the top, looking east, you can watch the James River drift lazily by.
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Looking back west, I could visually measure the almost exactly one mile between my current spot I was standing and the building I had walked from to get there.
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This gentleman is looking out over the City from atop his very tall pedestal.
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Everything below seems very tiny from my vantage point. I feel both insignificant and very large at the same time from up here. Cars look like Matchbox toys from up here and I can see all the way to the Chesterfield Power Station that is south of my house along the James River.
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And then I took this.

It is the first picture of myself since I turned 30. Unadulterated. Unaltered.
I got to the top of the hill feeling distinctly and intensely unapologetic about who I am. I did something silly today and wore some silly peacock feather earrings I bought for $2 last week. I like peacock feathers and I liked the earrings, and I didn’t care if they were fashionable enough to wear to work. I was feeling a bit rebellious and wore them.

Even more rebellious are the little stud earrings in my upper ear cartilage. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings in those holes at home, much less to my rather conservative workplace.

I wear glasses. I have crows feet (too many years of playing outdoors in the sun without sunscreen). I have never intentionally plucked a hair out of my eyebrows. I don’t frequently wear makeup. The smile lines around my mouth have gotten very deep since I lost 120 pounds. My eyes can’t decide if they are blue or green, or gray. I do all kinds of unfashionable things, like wear my hair almost to my backside and only bother to color it once a year or so anymore. Or wear peacock feather earrings (actually, I think that is fashionable for the 13-17 year old age group right now…). I keep my toenails painted 100% of the time, but I have worn polish on my fingernails maybe 4 or 5 times in the past decade.

I run. I knit. I cook things my family likes to eat (we are having grilled Bessie Cow tonight!). I sing badly, but sometimes I do it out loud anyway. I sew poorly, but have enough basics to keep Byram and I at least somewhat decently garbbed in the SCA. I excel at washing dishes. I can plunge a toilet like no one’s business. I am either a horribly conservative democrat or a ridiculously liberal republican, depending on what day of the week it is when you ask me. Or maybe more accurately, I am a libertarian who appreciates some law and order, but really just wants to be left alone.

And you know what? I love all of those facts about me. I even like that self-portrait, taken at an odd angle with an odd, Mona Lisa-like look on my face. I love who I am and I don’t want to apologize for that.

Speaking of love…meet Melpomene.
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I am right at the half way mark with it and my progress has slowed (so typical of me). I came up a little short on yarn because I used larger needles than the pattern called for, but it worked out just fine. The first ball ran out just as I finished the last repeat of Chart B, so I just began the decreasing charts (Chart D) next and skipped over the middle point (Chart C). There should be no change in the effect on the shape of the scarf, just shortening its overall number of repeats.
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I adore the soft, solid texture the stitches create. I love the simplicity of the garter stitch short row sections, and enjoy the not too challenging, but not mindless twisted stitch patterns as well. I find the whole thing to be very soothing on my frayed nerves these days. The rich hue of the blue helps too. It’s a shame, but I couldn’t get a good true-to-color shot of the blue. Yesterday’s late afternoon sun threw off the color, and today’s lack of sun washes it out to gray when it really is an unapologetic sapphire blue.

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The Neglected Blog Looks Back

I have had nothing to say. Nothing to show you. Nothing to share. Not that there hasn’t been an abundance of words, potential photos, or knitted projects, it’s just that it is the time of year where my brain is overwhelmed and I just don’t feel like talking. I have neglected the blog and I am sorry.

2011 has been a year for wild ups and downs. It will go down in my memory for several momentous occasions.

First, it was the year I found my feet. I started running in the Spring of 2010 a few months after gastric bypass, but it wasn’t until this year that I found the confidence to run races. It began in January when I learned that Warrior Dash was coming to Virginia and I signed up as a way to motivate myself. Then I discovered the SuperHero 5K; a perfect race given my ability, my fondness for superheros, and the charity appealed to me. In total, I ran 3 races this year, finishing the year with the Jingle Bell Run, and even before 2012, I have signed up for two more races, both 13.1 mile distances. I am already well into training for the half marathon I am running on March 17, 2012.

I will also remember it as the year I received my Pelican in the SCA and as a year in general where I gave most of my spare time to the SCA, at least up until about October. Between autocratting, gate keeping, and general event support staff, I put a lot of time, sweat, and work into the SCA. I have committed to making 2012 a lighter year for the SCA for myself. No jobs, no event staffing, no offices; nothing unless I am taken hold of by some bolt out of the blue and inspired to do something.

It was the year of car repairs and cash hemorrhaging in general. Things were looking up early in the year, but then the van needed work, then the washer gave up the ghost, then we bought a new t.v., then my truck needed $1000 in work, then the van again, then the truck broke down the day before Thanksgiving, and finally, the van needed a new radiator just last week. It has been brutal, but we have held on and received a lot of blessings too; just the fact that we aren’t deeply in credit card debt still puts us in a better place than we were 3 years ago. I hope things will improve in 2012.

Also in the hardship category has been the breakup of my parents’ marriage after 32 years. As I told my dad a couple of weeks ago, this has been a long time in coming, so long in fact that I just stopped believing it would actually happen. But at long last it has, and we are picking up the broken pieces of my family and trying to figure out how to make a new puzzle out of it all. Some pieces are missing. Some pieces don’t fit together anymore. For better or worse, I suspect it is only the glue that is Grace Elizabeth that is preventing total disintegration.

I confess that I always assumed that divorcing parents would be vastly easier to manage as an adult than as a child. In fact, I thought I would have no emotional fall out whatsoever. I was categorically wrong on that front. This is hard. It hurts. And there is not a quick end to the hurt in sight, but I will push on to do right by all of my family, even though that balancing act is difficult at best and leads to hurting others sometimes at worst.

2011 was the year I began to earn some culinary chops. I have enjoyed experimenting with food, flavors, cuts of meat, and preserving food. The surgery I underwent almost 2 years ago has totally transformed my interests in food. Gone are the days when fried chicken and French fries made a meal, and all for the better as far as I am concerned. Yes, almost everything I cook has to have some kind of sauce with it for my own benefit, but the great thing about sauces is you can cook the same type of meat 10 times (hello boneless, skinless chicken breast) and have a different take on it every time. I have truly begun to enjoy cooking to the point that I frequently prefer it to eating out at a restaurant a lot of times.

It is also the year where I began to really care about what is in my food and where it came from. Websites I follow like Well Preserved and Fooducate have opened my eyes to possibilities and problems with our food. Sites like Food Freedom and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense have opened my eyes to the incredible power wielded by the large food corporations and how they influence government policy to their own fiscal benefit, though frequently to the detriment of the general public (remember, this is the year that tomato paste made pizza qualify as a “vegetable” for the purpose of school lunches).

It was not a big year for knitting for me. My Corrie Vest was the only really impressive project I succeeded at. The well-intentioned Self Created Sock Club flopped in May when it was supposed to be a pair of socks for my dad; this was simultaneous with the discovery of the divorce. Between the insanity of getting ready for Sapphire and the tumult of the early days of the divorce proceedings, I just couldn’t bring myself to knit his socks. And once I was off a month, I never got my sock mojo back. I have a new plan for 2012 and for knitting that I will describe in a forthcoming post.

It has been an incredible year with my daughter. Watching Grace become a little kid who can write her name, her numbers up to 10, who can spell C A T, who can color in the lines, who can draw pictures, and can remember and sing entire songs back to us has been uplifting and amazing. She has been the light and joy in my year.

I feel like I am ending 2011 a very different woman than I was when it started. I feel much older, more care-worn than I was 12 months ago. It has not been an easy or light year in any way, which doesn’t expressly mean it was a bad year overall, just a very intense year across the whole spectrum. I feel like I changed more in just this year than I have ever before, in some ways for the better, and in other ways, not so much.

I am closing out my third decade of existence very soon as well. My twenties were an awesome set of years, to be sure, but I am entering into my thirties in better health than I have ever had and with an amazing family I didn’t have at the beginning of my twenties. I don’t know where I will be at 40 in the same way I could never have predicted where I am today when I was 20, but I hope and pray that the coming decade will a decade of action and doing. I want to use these years to do rather than to hope to do. I will never be any younger than I am today, every day, and I learned very acutely this year that if you want to do something, you better hurry up and do it. Opportunities come far less frequently than excuses.

On that note, I will be closing out 2011 by running seven miles on Saturday morning. That is something I definitely could not have done on 12/31 a year ago. I can’t wait to see what I can do a year from this Saturday.

I wish you and yours an amazing 2012.

A Rather Scathing Post So Prepare To Be Offended

I had been under the impression, given what I was seeing on the web and the protests in the streets, that an anti-consumerism movement was building in our country. I was seeing petitions sent around to encourage Target to rethink its Thanksgiving night opening. I was seeing backlash against the box store race to see who could open the earliest on Thanksgiving. I was reading commitments everywhere to shop locally and avoid the stores on Black Friday.

I think we are a county of Big Talk and No Action.

We can talk ourselves blue in the face about the horrible commercials (Crazy Target Lady, anyone?), the insane opening hours, the burden put on employees forced to work overnight (meaning they have to be sleeping during the holiday so they can be up all night), and the fact that stores are having to hire off-duty police officers to work as security, but our actions speak far louder than our words.

Given that Black Friday set a sales record this year, and the fact that 14 million MORE people participated than in 2010, I would say all of that anti-consumerism rhetoric was worthless.

I know it is the tradition of some families to shop together the day after Thanksgiving. But what was once a quaint and friendly experience has spiraled into some sort of macabre race to the bottom of civilization.

I withheld my dollars on Friday. I didn’t spend a dime. According to one Salon.com columnist, that makes me “nutty” as I was willfully damaging our economy (while out of the other side of his mouth, he bashes the same consumerism, but that is the advantage of being a hypocrite, I suppose), but even though I was antsy and a little cabin-fevered, I was not going out to engage in ANY commercial enterprises. It was a protest of my own.

Saturday was Shop Small Business day (coined a couple of years ago by American Express so consider that for a moment!). The sentiment is better, but it is still a celebration of crushing consumerism. My family did venture out on Saturday and we engaged in the most local activities we could think of. We visited Maymont Park in the heart of Richmond, and gave a tiny bit of money to the foundation there, while engaging in a very family friendly and physically active activity. From there, we ate lunch at a local non-profit restaurant called Positive Vibe Café. The restaurant works to train people with disabilities in the food service industry to help them find meaningful employment. The rest of the afternoon was spent with friends, celebrating the 4th birthday of one cute little guy named Noah.

Don’t get the idea that I am opposed to spending money or giving generous gifts at Christmas. I am opposed to indebting myself at a 15% interest rate to create a mirage of wealth and prosperity when that is not the case. I am not opposed to getting gifts from a big box store, I am opposed to huddling in the cold dark, waiting for the magic moment the doors open and rushing in for a smash and grab style of shopping, hoping not to get injured in the press of bodies. I am especially violently opposed to the one-upsmanship you see among some families over who can give the most expensive gifts.

I recently saw an article that said giving handmade gifts for Christmas is a tremendous faux pas and a horrible embarrassment to both the giver and receiver. I was so disgusted with the article that I didn’t go beyond the opening paragraph to see what gifts the writer felt were not embarrassing, but I would bet they recommend things like fancy jewelry or electronic gadgets.

Here’s my feeling on the matter. If I give a handmade gift to a family member who is too embarrassed by it to be gracious about it, then maybe we have a fundamental problem in the foundation of our relationship. I can spend $10 on a ball of sock yarn and make a unique and beautiful pair of warm and comfortable socks, or I can spend $10 on some random, plastic tchotchke. Which one is really more valuable? What has been hard on my pride is the deluge of gifts we have received from our families while in turn, we hand over a pair of socks, or a pillow, or a shawl, and a gift card, and while opening a bag with an $80 comforter or $40 curtains in return. So yes, I can understand the embarrassment factor in that.

For me, though, it has become an embarrassment I have to accept because I am unwilling to swipe a credit card so we can do a little better at Christmas by our families. When we committed a couple of years ago to get out from under our credit card debt and not live on credit anymore, it put quite a crimp in our Christmas gifting style, unsurprisingly. We turned to handmade gifts and smaller things like gift cards to restaurants to give our families, all of which have been well-received, and I believe they understand our effort to be self-sufficient and not debt-burdened, even at the expense of nicer Christmas gifts.

The comment made at the Salon.com article I cited above by Mr. Leonard about not shopping really set me off this morning (as you can probably tell from this rant).

The full quote is as follows:
Let me be clear. I am not opposed to vigorous sprees of retail spending. For the sake of the U.S. economy, I would love to see a robust Christmas shopping season and I plan to do my part. I find the notion that we should “occupy Black Friday” and withhold our consumer dollars as a way of hitting back at the 1 percent just nutty. Voluntarily subtracting demand from the economy hurts us. A general consumer strike would result in more layoffs and pay cuts and bankruptcies and foreclosures. Sure, Wal-Mart would take a hit, but so would Wal-Mart employees.
(First, I am so over the tired little phrase “Let me be clear.” Thanks a lot for that one, President Obama!)

Unemployment is still very high, incomes are much lower than they were several years ago, and the economy IS teetering right now, leaving many people to wonder if they will still have jobs in 2012, so for many people, the only way to have a “vigorous spree[] of retail spending” would be to do so with a credit card. One of the many things (and there ARE many things) that got us into the Great Recession in the first place was people spending more than they could really afford, and kicking their debt can down the road in hopes that their incomes would rise over time. (See subprime mortgages for more detail.)

When I say Occupy Christmas, I don’t have any specific demands or a legislative action plan or anything. What I mean is I want people to spend within their means, don’t allow pressure from marketers, media, and peers to force you into a “Keeping Up With The Joneses” situation. I don’t want to tell anyone what or how to give Christmas gifts. What I want is to see all of us take a deep breath and step back from the insanity we saw across America last Friday. Think. Don’t let commercials and marketing whip you into a frenzy.

Christmas shopping should not require bringing along a homemade pepper spray neutralizer or wearing a Kevlar vest.

I guess we can at least say no one died this Black Friday, right?

Our Local Thanksgiving

Well, my challenge to myself was to source as much of our Thanksgiving Day feast foods as locally as possible. I am annoyed at myself because every year, we always take a picture of our spread and this was the first year I failed in that, and this is the first year it really mattered to me what our spread looked like.

So, starting with the blatantly unlocal stuff. I did not extend my challenge as far as the goods other family members were bringing. Anna Jean was bringing deviled eggs and Dottie was bringing the beloved dish affectionately known as “green glop” (lime jello, pineapple, and marshmallow salad) and pumpkin pie. Because cranberries don’t seem to grow in Virginia and I really do like cranberry jelly, I got a plain old can of cranberry jelly. Next year, I am going to make my own. The white potatoes came from the store because I couldn’t find decent white potatoes at the farmers market except for tasty small new potatoes that would not make good mashed potatoes. And of course there was the Savory Toasted Cheese.

Other than those items, pretty much everything on the table, down to the fresh herbs for seasoning, were local.

Of course the star of the show was the turkey. At $6.50 a pound, it was really hard on our budget. One would hope that for $95, it would be the most amazing turkey you have ever tasted.

Fortunately, it was. Yes, I will spend $100 on a turkey again. I brined it in a fairly unscientific brine of a cup of sea salt, a half cup of brown sugar, a variety of herbs and garlic, in enough water to cover the bird for about 18 hours in a 5 gallon lined drink cooler out on the back porch overnight.

I worked very hard this year to smooth out timing issues that have been plaguing me over the past several years. I spent most of Wednesday afternoon doing a lot of pre-cooking. I made my mushroom stuffing and melted the STC together, I sliced and boiled the sweet potatoes for my sweet potato casserole. I mandolined all the veggies for my “root vegetable salad” and got them coated in their olive oil and herb coating to sit in the fridge overnight. I really need a nicer name for that dish since “roasted root vegetable salad” sounds shockingly unappetizing, but the end result is a delicious, sweet and savory dish of perfectly cooked squash, purple onions, carrots, garlic, parsnips, and garlic cloves.

All this prep work made Thursday morning the most relaxed Thanksgiving morning I have ever had. I still had to be up at 6am to get Tommy in the oven, but that didn’t bother me. If the pan goes in the oven length-wise, it leaves enough room on the side to put a smallish dish in next to it, which meant things like the dressing (I do actual stuffing in the bird and dressing in a dish for those who are concerned about contamination, even though I also check the internal temperatures of the stuffing) and the sweet potato casserole could be baking simultaneously with the bird. I was religious this year about checking on Tommy and checking his internal temps as the morning went on. There was NO way I would risk over- or under-cooking him. At exactly 11am, as my plan had been and thankfully worked out to be, he had reached the appropriate temps I was looking for and out he came for a good long rest. That allowed the root veggies plenty of time for their one-hour roast.

At 1pm, everything was ready to serve. Byram had a very hard time carving up Tommy because the physiology of the bird was unlike any regular turkey we have ever had. He had more muscle, fascia and sinew, tougher skin, and was more boat-shaped than flat and round like an ordinary turkey, so he would not lay flat on the cutting board (or the roasting pan for that matter).

One of the things that really startled Bryam and I as we worked with the bird (though in different ways) was just how physically different it was. The giblets were HUGE compared to a regular bird, as would be necessary since he lived outdoors, moved very freely, and could even fly (a regular bird cannot fly, even if it had access to space to do so). It would of course need a larger heart to move more blood. Its internal cavity was huge as well to accommodate all those larger organs. The breast was smaller (but not by a whole lot) but the thighs, legs, and wings were much bigger, and the dark meat was absolutely delicious.

For all the expense and worry and work of getting it right, that was the most amazing turkey we have ever had. Interestingly enough, the skin was not especially tasty, though I didn’t add a ton of seasoning directly to the skin, just smeared it with butter and a little salt before roasting. I usually find the skin on a regular bird to be yummy. It didn’t matter that the skin wasn’t tasty though. The meat itself was so good that you didn’t need the skin for extra flavor.

As for the rest of the table, the food was generally really good too. The mashed potatoes flopped, but they were the last dish I put any effort into and I don’t know if it was the choice of potato (russet) or the much larger quantity I made than usual, but I couldn’t get any flavor into them no matter how much half and half, milk, butter, and salt and pepper I added, and I could not beat the lumps out of them. Ah well. Of all the things to flop, mashed potatoes were the least important.

The roasted vegetables turned out to be a big hit when in the past they have been less popular. And shock of shocks, even though there was “bird-free” dressing on the table, everyone kept going for the stuffing we had taken out of the bird, even all those who are generally fearful of it. That blew my mind. And they all loved it too.

All in all, I would call the Local Thanksgiving Challenge a big success.

Now the big question. So how about the budget? Excluding things I always have in the house like flour, salt, eggs, milk, chicken broth, and butter, which of course do add to the total, but were not bought specific to this meal, the total for my part of dinner came out to be about $120.

That is a lot of money, but then I broke it down further. I fed 8 people one meal. That works out to $15 a head. So that makes my Thanksgiving dinner about the price of a decent sit down dinner in a restaurant (excluding drinks). But then, I sent leftovers home with 2 people who didn’t have to make dinner that night. So that is 10 meals.

Friday morning, we ate leftovers for breakfast. Call that 2 more meals (since Grace didn’t eat as much and I don’t eat a huge portion), so we are up to 12 meals served, bringing the cost down to $10 a meal. We continued to eat leftovers for lunch and also dinner on Friday. Add 4 more meals to our overall Thanksgiving meals. Now we have served 16 meals from that dinner.

Saturday was a Thanksgiving-free day, and we splurged on things like homemade steak, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, lunch at a local, charitable restaurant, and dinner with friends.

Byram was 100 % done with turkey but we still had a bunch leftover, so since he was gone all day on Sunday, I made a sort of Mexican Turkey chili thing. Grace wouldn’t eat anything so spicy, so I made her steamed broccoli leftover from the head I bought at the farmers market for Thanksgiving, and served her rewarmed turkey pieces and rice. I had the Mexican chili on rice for lunch and dinner, which my mom ate as well. I would call that one real serving since it was just turkey even though it fed 3 of us for last night’s dinner. That makes 17 meals, and there is still enough turkey left that I intend to make into turkey salad to eat for lunch, which I would call one last small meal, bringing the tally up to about 18 meals served out of the $120 I spent on Thanksgiving.

That brings my total to about $6.67 per meal served. Yes, $120 is not playing around money, especially when our budget is squeezed to the limit right now, but getting that many meals out of it makes it surprisingly economical when you consider the grand scheme of things.

So, my conclusion is that I loved the local challenge and even with the insanely expensive turkey, it was no so expensive as to prevent me from doing it again. What a wonderful experiment this turned out to be.

If I do Thanksgiving at my house next year, I would do this again, and I would tweak only a couple of things like maybe I will serve roasted local new potatoes instead of plain old mashed potatoes and I will get green beans while they are in season and blanch and freeze them or can them while they are fresh to serve in November. I will make my own cranberry jelly from non-local cranberries, but without all the HFCF in the Ocean Spray stuff. But that is about all the changes I would make.

Thanks for following along if you are still with me, 1700 words into my wrap up. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Next challenge: Occupy Christmas and make it Local! I will come up with details and ideas and post soon.

Another Wash, Rinse, Repeat Post

Knit. Run. Play with Grace. Run. Knit. Play with Grace. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Throw in some stupid internet games and my salaried job (where a lot of the Knit. Run. Knit. Run. part happens…) and that is pretty much the sum total of my life. I spent a week run down by a cold, but am mostly recovered now, and thankful it hit before Thanksgiving, rather than next week.

I am working on a poncho with a deadline. That is going mostly well, and at least faster now that I am to the interesting part of the poncho.

I have several Christmas gifts set aside, but not everyone’s yet and time is winding down. Trying not to panic here.

Next week is Thanksgiving and my menu is mostly planned. Care to see? Things with a * next to them denote that the dish is as local as I can make it.

*Empress Farm Heritage Turkey w/ gravy
*Kim’s Mushroom Stuffing
Savory Toasted Cheese (blatantly non-local!)
*Steamed Broccoli (to appease the Girl Child who loves the ‘little green trees’)
Green Beans
*Roasted Autumn Veggies (very flexible depending on what is at the farmers market tomorrow)
*Mashed Potatoes
*Sweet Potato Casserole w/ meringue topping

Those are my contributions to the table. The rest of the menu is as follows:

*Fresh baked rolls (Ama makes them and gets the flour from the mill in Ashland)
Green Glop (yummy pineapple and lime jello salad brought by Greatma)
Deviled Eggs (contributed by Nana)
Can of Cranberry Jelly (I can’t help it, I just love this stuff so I put it on the table)
Pumpkin Pie (Greatma)
*Apple Pie (Ama)

Some of the dishes might vary based on what I find tomorrow at the market. The mushroom stuffing might get to be a local dish if the guy who sells the mushrooms is at South of the James tomorrow, or it might not. If I were making the pumpkin pie, it could count as local since all our pumpkins this year came from the Chesterfield Berry Farm and we stowed the pumpkin goodness in the freezer, but this is another way for my grandma can contribute. I might make a pumpkin pie of my own over the long weekend though, or more of the pumpkin bread I made last weekend that was so delicious.

Wherever everything ends up coming from, our little band will eat well. Looks to be only 8 of us now, technically 7 if you count Grace and I as one normal serving.

Tomorrow, I will be two weeks away from my 5K Jingle Bell Race at Stony Point Fashion Mall. I am not feeling as confident about my sub-30 minute goal as I was, but I am not as unhappy about that as I thought I would be. I have not yet been able to maintain the 9:30 min/mile pace I would need for the sub-30 minute 5K, but I still believe I will run a solid race and hopefully make a faster time than my 31:52 in April.

That being said, I finally signed up for my first half marathon. I am running the Instant Classic Half Marathon Trail Race on March 17, 2012. I plan to train for it with Kitty’s team who will simultaneously be training for the Shamrock Half being held in VaBeach the same day. They start their training on 12/3, the same morning as my 5K run, so I will be coming in a week late to the show. Hopefully her team won’t mind.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I have lots of stuff going on, but nothing that has been much worth blogging about. Like I said, it figured to be a quiet month. I hope to have more to share leading up to or right after Thanksgiving.

Occupy Christmas

(Oh yes, I went there.)

Here’s an Occupy Thought:

The holidays are coming, specifically Christmas, the biggest gift giving holiday of the year. Regardless of religious beliefs, the vast majority of people give gifts to family and friends on Christmas.

If you are pissed off at Corporate Greed, then vote with your dollars this Christmas season, and don’t buy gifts from Corporate Giants. You know all those Black Friday deals at Wal-mart? You know the $6 coffee pots, the $10 DVD players, and whatnot? You know why they are so cheap? They are made with essentially slave labor, by a company so large as to be able to leverage the entire market down, keeping wages and benefits at those same “rock-bottom” levels as their much celebrated prices.

Buy gifts from local artisans, craftspeople, and producers. Or, try non-local sources like Etsy, or Artfire for beautiful handmade gifts.

Or, try making your own gifts. Baked goods, canned/jarred preserves, jams, and jellies, baking “kits” (all the dry ingredients necessary for a special recipe, like cookies, layered prettily into a Mason Jar with the recipe and instructions printed on the side), are wonderful, inexpensive options. More extravagant options could be buying someone a share at a local CSA. If you have a knitter or crocheter in your family, another extravagant option would be a subscription to an independent dyer’s “sock club” or “fiber club.” I am sure there are similar options for Quilters and other needle artists out there.

Do you have a family member who has everything they could possibly need, and cannot think of anything they truly want? Make a donation in their name to a charity foundation you know they would approve of, and make a beautiful card or letter telling them of your donation.

If you have a friend or family member who has jumped on the growing Do It Yourself movement, and they have interest in making some of their own foods from scratch, consider getting them a home cheesemaking kit, or a nice book on artisan bread making.

Are these things much more expensive than the $6 coffee pot at Wal-Mart? Absolutely. But just because you can get more stuff to show your love, does not necessarily make the gifts more loved or more meaningful.

This Christmas, vote with your dollars. Make your gifts count in the way your conscience dictates.

That Thanksgiving Challenge Again

Eat Local Thanksgiving Challenge

We are closing in on a month away from Thanksgiving here in the States (happy belated Thanksgiving to my one or two Canuck readers) and my challenge hasn’t left my mind, but I am realizing the significance of the challenge, or really, how many challenges this encompasses.

Challenge No. 1 — Avoiding “Weird” Foods
There are very few “weird” foods to me, however, when dealing in particular with my older family members who have very deep rooted food “comfort zones,” serving unfamiliar produce that is in season locally is going to come across as “weird.” A roasted root vegetable salad like I made several years ago is the perfect seasonal produce dish that I can serve, but when I made it a while back, it was definitely not the most popular dish on the table due mostly to its unfamiliarity.

Challenge No. 2 — Handling “Traditional” Expectations
We always have corn on the table at Thanksgiving, therefore, it must be traditional, right? If I want to serve local corn, I have to hope there is still some around right now and de-cob it (is that at word?) and freeze it. Otherwise, I either will miss that window or make an exception for the table. Further, I will have to be okay with traditional non-local foods like cranberries being there because it just “wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.” That’s okay too.

Challenge No. 3 — Being Okay Not Being Perfect
I frequently set myself a goal and when I see that I cannot perfectly execute said goal, I tend to give up altogether. I recognize this as the character flaw that it is. So when I see myself having to make exceptions (like Sweet Potato Casserole with locally grown sweet potatoes but HFCF-dense marshmallows and maple syrup from Vermont), I wonder why I am even bothering. Instead, I am trying to focus on two things: a) alternatives to the objectionable ingredients (like the maple syrup) or b) barring any alternatives, accepting that this is supposed to be fun, not make me insane and my family unhappy.

Saturday morning, I intend to make a visit to the South of the James Farmers Market and see what there is to see. I would like to make my roasted root vegetable dish again, though it has been some years since I last did it, and serve it. Those who don’t try it will miss out. I am looking for interesting apple dishes to try since apples are so easy and abundant locally. And I will see what fresh remaining summer-type produce I can get now and preserve in ways to put them on the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Soon, particularly after visiting SotJ this weekend, I hope to start scratching out a menu, which I intend to share here.