HOLIDAYS are rooted in tradition. That’s what makes them unique and personal. Every Thanksgiving day, for as long as I can remember, my family completes our Norman Rockwell “Freedom from Want” puzzle before dinner is served.
Thanksgiving cerca 1987 at my Grandparents'
As a child, my cousins, sisters and I would be corralled to the back room of my grandparents’ house where the pieces would be spread out on a card table for us. We huddled around the tiny table hoping to put two pieces together before anyone else, but also secretly trying to keep warm in the drafty den. What served merely as a distraction for me as a child has recently become my favorite activity of the day.
Thanksgiving cerca 2007 at our house
Now, the crowd is usually reduced to Barberree, my only living grandparent, and I. We sit silently next to each other sipping our holiday drinks and placing the same soggy pieces that we have for decades. A couple years ago, I realized that one day I'll be the only one left at the table. But until then, I am most thankful for the moment when the last piece is placed, and she looks up, winks and says, "How about that."
*This holiday anecdote was also a contribution to Mastering the Art of Thanksgiving, a fantastically festive zine created by Miss Sarah Handelman. After you put your Thanksgiving pants on you can settle on the couch and flip through all the wonderful tidbits she brought together.
**Barberree and I started the puzzle yesterday when she came over to help my mom and I "chop things." We have the perimeter done and ready for others to join in :)
My first return to Columbia as an alumna was nothing short of epic. I hung out on the quad for College Gameday and saw the Tigers take down the number one ranked team in the country with the best company that anyone could have asked for.
It brought tears to my eyes to think that this many people were willing to put themselves out there and dance, foolishly or otherwise, all for breast cancer awareness. Thank you to each and every one of you.
Brown rice stuffed squash with sauteed kale and pine nuts (yes, we are obsessed with kale).
After the stuffed acorn squash disaster of 2010, my always-supportive mother found this MEATLESS stuffed squash option (the ladies in the video are hilarious). It was so amazing that it has automatically been added to my Alternative Thanksgiving menu. I might substitute the rice based stuffing for traditional bread stuffing on the actual day though.
I love to eat even though, to most people, my options are seriously limited. The truth is, the possibilities for lactose-intolerant vegetarians are endless these days, especially with a little creativity. AND, Thanksgiving doesn't have to be about binge eating dairy and fat and carbs. It can be about eating healthy, delicious food to a proper full feeling :) This will be my third year with an alternative Thanksgiving, and I think I have finally found some recipes that are keepers, including this stuffed squash. But don't worry, I'm not giving up my "Thanksgiving pants."
Last night's dinner: polenta triangles with tomato sauce (from the William Sonoma Vegetarian cookbook) - not for Thanksgiving but still awesome.
Oprah's guest today was Kim Nobel, a woman who lives with 20 different personalities. Technically, Kim is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) as a result of, what her doctors believe, was childhood abuse. Kim's daughter and most dominant personality (or alter) will tell you, however, that Kim doesn't exist.
Kim's daughter was asked what it's like to be raised by a mother with multiple personalities and responded that it's normal to her, "I haven't seen any different," she said. Just another one of those things in life where it's all what you know; it's all relative.
The woman's story was fascinating, but what peaked my interest is the way that her therapist suggested the personalities express themselves- through painting. After working with an art therapist for a short time, Kim and 13 of her personalities took up painting. Each personality focuses on their own colors and themes, and their work is entirely unique to their story.
Artwork by Kim Nobel's alters
I have always been interested in art therapy. Dancing used to be a huge stress reliever for me, and now, I write to relieve stress. Art allows people to indirectly express themselves, which is therapeutic and also beautiful. I think it is an excellent form of therapy and pain management, and I hope to see the field develop further in the future- maybe even as a result of people seeing this show.
For those who don't know, it's Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 3-9, 2010). Here's hoping that the stigmas attached to mental illness will soon become a thing of the past!
AND I've added a new blog to my blogroll. Drum roll please....
My friends Anna and Becca are behind Supporting our Siblings: Advocating and Educating, a blog devoted to mental health issues. Both girls have a sibling who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and are taking to the blogosphere to facilitate conversation and slash the stigmas developed by not talking about mental illness. As I've said before, you're only as sick as your secrets, so way to put yourselves out there and talk about real issues!
Last night, I celebrated my cousin Leslie's 21st birthday. It was a really fun night, but I think the best part was the group sleep-over at my cousins' apartment. Laurel and Mike just moved to Chicago and graciously hosted all five of us.
The Birthday Girl and I at Laurel's wedding
Nick, Shannon, Leslie, John and I were spread across their living room floor on various air mattresses and couches. It reminded me of the sleep-overs my sisters and I had with Nick, Laurel and Leslie at Aunt Pat's when we were kids. The six of us used to line up across her living room floor as well, only there were no air mattresses back then- only sleeping bags.
My favorite memories from my childhood are all family related, many of them including my aunt. It's hard to believe that this October will be five years since we lost her.
My cousins and I at Aunt Pat's circa 1993
But October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which allows my family to both remember my aunt and support the cause through numerous outlets. I am happy to say that the past five years have made me incredibly optimistic about the advancements in prevention and treatment of the disease. There are so many options now- and so many ways for people to join the fight.
So, save your yogurt lids (I'm lucky Activia jumped on board this year), buy products that donate to breast cancer organizations or simply know your body so that you can detect any changes that may come your way. The future of breast cancer treatment is in your hands- literally.
...you get tricked into buying beautiful stuffed acorn squash only to find out with the first bite that there is Italian sausage in the stuffing (sometimes I get so focused on looking for dairy in ingredient lists that I completely forget to check for meat)...
... you are happy to see your Starbucks-obsessed dad with a steaming soy chai latte to warm you up on a chilly Saturday morning- maybe living at home through the winter won't be so bad :)
For our afternoon walk today, I consulted my iTunes Genius, which happened to put together a great playlist based on my current favorite tune. It was the perfect playlist for a perfectly sunny fall day:
Dog Days are Over, Florence and the Machine Mansard Roof, Vampire Weekend Under the Weather, KT Tunstall Moth's Wings, Passion Pit You are the Best Thing, Ray LaMontagne My Moon, My Man, Feist You Rock my World, Michael Jackson Revelry, Kings of Leon Best for Last, Adele Somebody to Love, Glee Cast Sweetest Thing, U2 Fences, Phoenix If it Kills Me, Jason Mraz
And now both my pups are taking an afternoon nap... not a bad idea...
but first, my stack of October mags need some attention.
One of the bonuses of living at home is access to more magazines than I could ever even want.
My ever-supportive parents subscribe to a variety of magazines that I get to sample free of charge every month. Most I only flip through during a seemingly extra long commercial break, but every once in a while I find something interesting. This weekend, I came across an article in Ladies' Home Journal written by Peg Rosen. Her average American family took on the challenge of reducing their weekly waste from three bags of garbage to one. I was really surprised by how easy it was for them and how easy it would be for anyone to take on some of the new practices that they did (one really easy but really effective idea was "creating satellite recycling stations" around their house so recycling was just convenient as throwing something in the trash- smart).
photo courtesy of Ladies' Home Journal
After I finished the article, I couldn't help but think twice about everything that I went to throw away. Those who know me well know that I'm an avid recycler, but everyone can find room to improve. I immediately went to get a paper grocery bag (we alternate cloth bags and disposable grocery bags so that we have something to put recycling in) and started filling it with papers from around the house. I picked up last Sunday's paper, an entire stack of magazines from the summer months and even a few odd receipts and grocery lists that were laying around. When I had a water spill to wipe up, I went for a paper towel, but grabbed a cloth towel instead. And when my mom asked me why I was eating the last piece of homemade zucchini bread over the sink, I told her, "I'm reducing my waste. This way, I don't use a napkin that just gets thrown away, nor do I waste water by washing a dish." (Okay, so this may have been a little overzealous and driven more by laziness than anything else, but I was reducing waste, wasn't I?)
Reducing, reusing and recycling is easy! What was Kermit thinking- it IS easy being green :)
And the best part is, a little can go a long way- although I would still like to find a way to compost ALL of our food scraps...
Yes, this past week was, what we in the biz call, fall roll out (did anyone get The Break Up reference?). I probably should have just set up a cot in the stock room with how much I was at the store. But I am really proud of how great everything looks and am in love with the buzz of a new collection.
Our marketing right now is also really cool- and really poignant. It's based on finding a wardrobe that "works for life," which I love. When I moved home from college I realized that all I owned were sloppy sweats or "going out clothes." Then I went through the all-I-do-is-work faze where I would only buy "work clothes" because that's all I did (what a difference a couple months makes). Now, I am hoping to buy clothes that don't make me want to change as soon as I get home from work, and that is what I am basing my new fall wardrobe on. Check out this cool commercial for the fall collection- all the people in the marketing are people taken off the streets of New York, or at least, they aren't models:
I think what I love the most about roll out though is the fresh start that fall and back to school brings. As far as new beginnings go, I definitely prefer this time of year to New Year's. Maybe it's because it accompanies a change of season, or maybe because it's not as forced, but either way, I have my goals for the month all set and am looking ahead to a lot of changes for the rest of the year.
Ever since my sister introduced me to Sex and the City, at arguably too young of an age, I have been hooked. We would come home from school, pop in a VHS and not move until the end of the tape. We'd be sitting in the dark with only the glow of the television when my mom would come home from work and find us mesmerized by women far beyond our age. I'm a Carrie. I don't have as avant garde of a fashion sense, and am much more cynical, but I'm definitely led by my emotions the way she is. Most of all, I'm a writer. And I always identified with her reflective self-questioning, imagination and desire to romanticism, which is often characteristic of those in the profession.
It seems that no matter what I've been going through in my life, I can find an episode where Carrie is going through it too.
Recently, I put in the first disc of season five (because VHS is obsolete) in search of an episode I knew of where Carrie is in a rut with her career. Sitting at her computer, she reflects on her situation and says, "The worst thing about not being in a relationship, is when your job is to write about being in a relationship."
Lucky for me, I write about life's gaps and getting through them. And since I started writing two years ago, I have realized that no matter where in the world you are or how old you are, every stage of life has "gaps." I never run out of things to write about, but then again, I don't have a book of my blog posts... Oh well, even Carrie Bradshaw didn't start out at Vogue.
I opened the back door at 4:45 a.m. and swatted away bugs zipping around the light above the door. It was darker, which made the light brighter and more attractive. The air was still heavy with humidity, so I know summer hasn't left yet, but it's packed it bags.
I got in my mom's car and fumbled for the ignition and then the lights. Hers aren't automatic like mine. Surely one day I'll return to the parking lot to find the battery dead. As I drove the familiar route, that's when I noticed- brighter green lights. And no rabbits congregating on the corner and feasting on my neighbors plants.
I love the seasonal sneak peak that comes every few months. The air was downright cool the other morning on my run, and it felt amazing. Wind blew past my face and I breathed without the weight of the air on my lungs. As a born and raised Midwesterner, I will always love, and need, a seasonal change. A reminder that time is, in fact, passing. Life is continuing on despite how stationary I feel.
I've decided that the best thing about living at home this part year has been the time that I have gotten to spend with Barberree, my grandmother, my only living grandparent. For the longest time, I have told her I want to record our conversations and later write a book based on them. We talk about everything from social and political issues to cooking and crafting. I even had the idea of a project titled "You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks" with all the things that we taugh Barberree how to do in her nineties, including make cheese and play solitare on a computer. I did sense that she probably wouldn't like the title of the project, which is why I ultimately gave it up. Unfortunately for me, she is definitely not into the idea of being recorded in any way. As she gets older, she comments on how she barely remembers the past and just tries to worry about one day at a time- a good motto, although a little morbid considering she is 94 years old.
Today, when I was having lunch with her on my day off, she actually told my mom and I that: "I'm the only one around here who knows how to use the damn thing (her dishwasher). I have to go down and run Alice's for her all the time." (Important note: Alice is 15 to 20 years younger than my grandmother.)
She may have caught on to the technology of a dishwasher, but she has very little interest in a computer and probably can't fathom the idea of my iPhone having Voice Memos... After a comment like today's, I can't pass up another opportunity to capture Barberree for all of eternity, and, lucky for both of us, she won't realize I'm doing it :)
*Since mastering solitare on the computer, Barberree has moved on and abandoned the technology all together. So, I can safely write about secretly recording her because she doesn't surf the net or read her granddaughters' blogs.
I have one of those jobs that has a more glamorous title than the job itself. That is not to say that I don't enjoy my job, it is just A LOT of hard work. I mean, I was sweating climbing up and down a ladder in the stock room yesterday.
And then today I came across this article in my MediaJobsDaily email from MediaBistro: "Do You Need a New Job Title?" It told of big, "important" companies that were giving their employees more "fun" titles, such as the Minister of Comedy at E&Y, a 20-something consultant that was hired to bring life to their otherwise dull presentations. And the thing is, the people with these jobs (and titles) have "[a] sense of ownership of, engagement with, and excitement about their jobs..." How many of you can say that about your job title?
I was recently scoffed at trying to explain the hierarchy at my store and the difference between the Customer Experience team and the Merchandise Presentation team. This person said something along the lines of, why don't they just call everyone what they are- store managers. Well, here's why. Giving specific titles gives ownership over certain responsibilities. Not everyone in a huge corporation is a blanket VP, so why shouldn't there be distinguishing titles in the retail industry. How insulting!
I truly feel that no one is in a position to demean another person for any reason, but especially in regards to what they do for work. Different people are needed for different jobs, and these days, having any sort of job at all should make you feel good! These are trouble times, people!
PS I styled the new jewelry yesterday and am in love with some pieces (unfortunately they aren't all online so I can't show them all). Let me know if you need a 25% off coupon for this weekend- it's our Mad Men (yes, like the show) event.
My Sseko sandals arrived today, and I could not wait to string 'em up!
I followed the instructions that came with the sandals, but I can't wait to try other ways too. Liz is so cool and even made a YouTube channel with videos on different ways to tie the sandals!
The shoes are so comfortable, very light and easy to wear. I put them on right out of the UPS package they came in and haven't taken the off yet. But that's not all, I also got a sweet necklace from Ember Arts in celebration of Sseko's first birthday! The beads are handmade from recycled paper (also in Uganda). So cool. And in the words of Jim Noe, "So socially conscious."
As I was going through my email this morning (and feeling a little low after all of the AMAZINGLY FUN festivities for Julie's wedding last weekend in Kansas City), I came across one from the Mizzou Alumni Association. Having just returned home and feeling sad that I left all my Mizzou friends in Missouri, I quickly opened it to see what was going on at my alma mater. And, boy, am I glad I did.
This issue of Mizzou-ya told the story of Liz Bohannon, BJ '07, MA '09 who just last year started Sseko, "a socially proactive Not-Just-For-Profit business" that employs women in Uganda and allows them to attend University with the money they make. The women make beautiful ribbon sandals (that Liz originally designed for herself for her first trip to Uganda). Kind of like the Tom's of sandals. They are seriously cute and the straps can be removed and tied countless different ways. These are my fav:
Just when I was thinking that my journalism degree from the nation's best journalism school meant nothing, my faith has been restored. I went to journalism school to be able to make a difference in some small way- to engage in and facilitate a conversation, to bring information and education to others and to help bring about change. And here is someone that is doing something worthwhile and inspiring with their degree, someone who is doing EXACTLY what I want to be doing.
Naturally, I emailed her to thank her for lifting me out of this funk and retoring my faith in myself. And look there is another person she has helped. This girl is my idol.
This recipe has quickly become a Noe family favorite and even a favorite of one of the families I sit for- and it could not be easier!
Simply rip the kale from the stalk into chip-sized pieces (my mom and I have even found some store that carry ready to eat kale in those plastic boxes). In a large bowl, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the chips onto a baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes on each side. You may have to watch the first time until you are comfortable with how quickly they bake in your oven. In our old oven, it took more like 8 minutes on a side, but in the new one 4 or 5 is just fine. Some times I sprinkle a little extra salt on when I flip them over too. After you feel they are sufficiently crispy, take them off the cookie sheet and place them into a bowl for serving! Bonappetit!
*This snack is gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly!
Another delicious vegan meal from Vegan Comfort Food- this book is a real winner. This was my first time making risotto. and they couldn't have made it easier. I would use a little less basil next time and let the flavors of the veggies speak for themselves. Yum!
Now I just need to work on my photography skills. How will I ever have a successful vegan empire with poorly lit photos taken with my iphone?
Boy, do I love peanut sauce. So when I saw this recipe in my Vegan Comfort Food cookbook, I knew I had to try it. And it was a great success! Next time, I would add more veggies.
While the soba noodles were cooking, I steamed carrots, broccoli and frozen peas (about a cup each) for about 5 minutes. Then, I put the noddles (drained, not rinsed) and the steamed veggies aside while I heated 1 tbs. peanut oil in my wok. I added 1 red bell pepper (sliced), 3 chopped green onions (only the white part) and 1/2 a cup diced celery. After sauteing for 4 minutes, I added the drained noodles and steamed veggie and then dumped on the sauce until everything was coated (I used 365 Organics Peanut Sauce from Whole Foods). Pretty Easy!
*Soba noodles are gluten free if they are made from 100% buckwheat!
Despite my growing love for gadgets, I cannot seem to give up the traditional pen and paper to-do list. Something about it's tangibility really appeals to me. Oh, and then there is the satisfaction of striking through an item once you've completed it. That's almost more rewarding than completing the task itself.
First morning off in an eternity= attacking my to-do list.
I am currently a demi-vegetarian. What is that you say? Well, most people would consider it a half or imperfect vegetarian, however, I am a firm believer in a diet that is "perfect" for the person consuming it.
I have been working with my diet since high school. Last year, I stopped eating red meat because it just seemed too hard for my body to digest, and I have never really liked the taste of chicken (that being said, I will eat something with cooked with chicken broth). After watching Food Inc. last month, I decided to give up all meat, but still eat eggs and fish. For me, it can be a struggle to get enough protein in my diet- thus demi-vegetarianism it is.
This can be hard to explain (and hard for people to rationalize), which is why in many instances I simply refer to myself as vegetarian. This makes things easy. For this same reason, I often look to vegan options in the grocery store and at restaurants. Since I can't eat dairy, it just makes things easier by eliminating the possibility of eating something that will make me sick.
Fortunately for me, my family is EXTREMELY supportive of my dietary restrictions after all these years. As because we were raised as good eaters who will try anything once, everyone eats my vegetarian and vegan creations (sometimes without knowing- I love watching family members devour something without the slightest idea that it is vegan). Here are some of our recent demi-veg celebrations:
Valentine's Day: roasted lobster tails with ginger dipping sauce and snow peas and cherry tomatoes.
Birthday breakfast: everything bagels with lox and vegan cream cheese, fruit and mimosas
I am currently reading Kelly Cutrone's book, "If you have to cry, go outside" and seriously cannot put it down. She's a little nuts, but she makes a lot of really good points about the evolution of feminism (or possible devolution), the fashion industry and success. This book couldn't have come into my life at a better time, but regardless of what stage of life you are in, you will definitely find something relevant. And if you don't, at least she's funny.
This is the time of year when it is important to remind yourself: spring will return. I take advantage of all the little things that restore hope and happiness after months of being frozen.
I ate a lifetime worth of these little guys in London, but I still can't get enough. I can usually rely on Grandma Barb to feed my need.This stuff kinda smells like my favorite sunscreen/ the tanning lotion I used in high school. Regardless, it smells like summer and I love it.
I am obsessed with this buttery leather jacket at my store. We sold out in a matter of days, but I couldn't afford it anyway.