If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Two things have stayed with me from our camping/hiking vacation.  The first is my bruised toe nails:

They don't hurt anymore but every time I look at my feet I think about our hikes.

The other is this book that I read while hanging out in the campsite.  The book is written by the first boy to ever ask me out on a date.  It was in sixth grade and he asked me to go see Annie with him.  The date and the romance never happened (good reasons for both) but a good friendship did.  We were friends through middle school and high school.  After high school I lost touch with just about everyone.  Then last year he found me on Facebook.  He is now living in Australia and working as a psychiatric nurse and, it appears, writing amazing books.

The book was not available in the US when he first contacted me and then when it became available I was busy with the semester.  Since summertime is when I do most of my fun reading I thought it would be a great read for a vacation.  

The book is a series of connected short stories but reads more like a novel.  The protagonist ages across the stories and there is a sense of progression and of narrative throughout the book that is never actually stated.  Reviews mention the sparseness and the humanity of his writing.  I would say both are right on.  It is a post-apocalyptic novel/series of stories and sometimes rather grim but mostly what I took from it is what it means to be a survivor and how we are all struggling to survive in a world we don't quite get. 

If you are looking for something to read this summer, this is definitely it. 

Monday, June 28, 2010


...and meals should be easy.

It is hot down here in SouthLite.  The kind of hot where you just don't want to go outside.  I don't like that kind of hot.

Summertime makes me think of...

hard-boiled eggs, and...

green grapes, and...


So I bought some (well I made the hard-boiled eggs).

I also like simple dinners.  The other night I made...

salmon, and...

a big salad, and...

multi-grain bread with cheese.

I would tell you that it was yummy but I might offend Drax with that word.

I'll just have to say it was delicious, because it was.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Down From The Mountains

We're back from our hiking vacation.  We went west and north (to the state directly above us), where we hiked and camped on mountains.  I love the mountains and the coast but in very different ways.  I love the two combined the best.  (See last year's vacation).  But I live directly in the middle.

We spent the first two days at a gorgeous state park.  We weren't thrilled with the campsites themselves but the park was beautiful.  We had our best hike on our first full day of the trip.  We hiked 10 miles, mostly above the tree line, using loops (b hates going straight out and back).  The weather was perfect.  It was sunny and warm but not too hot and there was a gentle breeze in the air.  The trails were crowded but the people friendly.
View I from our campsite

View II from our campsite

Cocktails and snacks before dinner

b, as usual, cooked us delicious meals.  He concocted a dirty rice chicken dish the first night and a chicken/mac&cheese/string bean combo the next.  They may sound strange but they tasted wonderful.

Our next hike was shorter (6 miles) and not as interesting.  The section of the trail was quite lovely but it didn't vary much.  It felt like a long straight path through the woods.  It was also considerably hotter and muggier.

We generally intersperse campsites with motel rooms on these kinds of trips so that night we found a motel, showered and ate in a restaurant.  Finding decent places to eat when b wasn't cooking turned out to be the hardest part of the trip.  It was sad to see how many independent establishments have closed in the small towns, leaving residents with nothing but fast food options.

This was actually one of the better meals/establishments

We drove on a scenic, curvy parkway back down to our own state.  It was a pretty and fun drive and we saw a lot of bikers: both the motorcycle and bicycle kind.  There are also trails along the way, so we could stop and hike whenever we wanted.  One trail we hiked was very short but had lots of steep climbs.  It was a fun little challenge with some pretty views.

The trail we hiked the most was the AT.  We used to hike parts of it on a regular basis when we lived UpNorth.  We were very lucky to live close to a section of the trail.  The AT is my favorite place to hike and this was our first opportunity to hike it since we moved south.  One day we hope to do it completely but I would need to take a 6-month leave of absence and that is not happening anytime soon.  Also, Pupzilla is now to old to hike it with us and we wouldn't be comfortable leaving her for that long.

We ended the trip in a vacation/university town.  The town is known for its skiing (which in the South seems a little strange to me) and reminded me of a smaller version of Boulder.  We were able to get decent food here as well a perused a few independent bookstores and an outdoor equipment retailer (always a favorite past time for b).  It was very cute and charming and we were quite amused there.

Met this beauty in a bookstore

Painting in the bathroom of a local breakfast spot

Our last hike was right outside this little city, in a brand new state park that seemed to have nothing in it but this brand new trail.  The trail was only 1.3 miles each way but it was straight up.  The day was hot but luckily we were high enough to get a nice breeze.  The view at the top was spectacular and worth the climb.  The trail itself was too well maintained for my hardcore husband.

b taking a picture of the view

Very well-maintained trail

It is nice to be home but even nicer to look forward to our next vacation.  In just three weeks we'll be heading UpNorth to see friends and family.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gone Campin'

Headed out to the mountains with my sweetie for a week.  I'll catch you all on the other side.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Books, Booze, and Broads...

...(and the Occasional Baked Good).

I've started a book club here in SouthLite.  It is a book club comprised only of women (Broads) who live in the area (or commutable distance) who I respect and admire.  We read Books either by women or about women (sometimes both) and drink Booze while we discuss said books. Occasionally I serve a Baked Good.

There are many things I have wanted in my life and most of them I have managed to make happen.  One, I have recently realized, I have to constantly create and recreate and that is having a community of thinkers.  You might think, as I once did, that working in academia would take care of that desire.  However, working and living in academia does not guarantee that you have either a community or thinking (at least shared thinking over something other than workloads and advising issues).

I've finally realized that I need to create what I want instead of waiting around for it to find me. Andrea figured this out long before me.

Yesterday we had our premier meeting.  Of the 10 women I invited, 5 were able to attend.  The other half are interested but had previous obligations.  The six of us seemed a perfect number so I'm curious to see what will happen if everyone shows up in the future.

We read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  If you have not read this book yet I urge you to do so.  Even if you have no interest at all in science you will enjoy this book immensely.

I baked a coffee cake and there was wine, beer and sake available for all.  Some people went the coffee and tea route and the rest of indulged in a little wine on a Saturday afternoon.

We discussed the book for almost 2 hours but we also talked of other womanly issues: raising chickens, menstruation, and exotic game hunting.

A fun time was had by all and I am eagerly awaiting our next meeting.  This time we will be reading memoirs from women in prison.

Waiting for the "Broads" to arrive

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food Talk

Yesterday I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

I made one of my favorite pasta salads.

I made enough to feed a small army.

Then I made chocolate ice cream


I made a critical error but it ended up ok.  
It wasn't what I planned but it was good.

b and I have been talking about combining our efforts and doing a food blog of our favorite recipes.  To be honest, I've been talking and b's been listening.  He's agreeable that way, my husband.

Then today I won a food prize of at MFA Mama's.  I get a 20% discount off my first purchase at Marx Foods.  I am very excited but I have no idea what to get.  I'll have to consult with b.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeding Your Soul

While I sometimes complain about my work (especially after a faculty meeting or while trying to route a grant), it feeds my soul.  I know how incredibly lucky I am to have a career that pays me to do what I would do/have to do anyway.

b is not in the same situation.  b has had a lot of jobs/careers over his lifetime and some have fed his soul more than others.  Currently he is working somewhere that he really enjoys with people that he really likes. That is important to mention as he realizes many people can't say the same and it certainly has not always been true for him in the past.  However two incidents have happened recently that have made his current work situation less satisfactory.  Both incidents are related to the economy.

The first was that an aspect of his job that he really enjoyed and received a certain degree of status for doing was taken away.  The company decided to decrease the number of people doing this particular activity and made it a regional responsibility instead of a local one.  While he was given the opportunity to apply for a regional position it would have required a lot of commuting, which did not make sense for us as a family.

The second incident was really a non-incident.  To feed his soul, b takes a leave of absence from his job each summer to teach sea kayaking in Alaska for a famous outdoor leadership school.  Last year enrollments at the school were way down and he did not get a course to teach.  He figured it was a bad year and we went to the Pacific Northwest instead.  This was a beautiful vacation but b really needs to get far away into the depths of nature to feel whole.  The economy is better this year and he had high hopes of getting a course.  Unfortunately, while enrollment is better at the school generally, for sea kayaking not so much.

b yearns for Alaska and the deep wilderness.  Over 10 years ago he planned a kayak expedition through the Inside Passage.  He's decided next year he is doing it, even if he has to do it solo.  Luckily he has about 4-5 friends who want to join him.  Sunday they had their first expedition planning meeting at a local coffeehouse.   Over the course of the year, one or two may drop but it looks like he'll get his trip.

The trip will take approximately 6 weeks.  I will remain behind.  We're hoping I can meet him after the trip for a brief vacation in Alaska but that still remains to be seen.  To be honest, I'm never thrilled with him being that out of touch for so long and this trip will cost us money (his courses basically paid for themselves) even though he'll do his best to keep it to a minimum.  However I've seen him when he comes back from the wilderness and he is a very different man.  We all need different things out of life and this is what keeps b b.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Farmer's Market

Today b and I got up early (for us) and headed to the Farmer's Market.  This time we had a plan.  We wanted to buy the makings of a salad, some fresh bread, a sharp cheddar cheese, and peaches.  Dinner this evening was salmon with bread and cheese and a simple salad.  It was delicious.  I also made cinnamon ice cream for tomorrow night's peach cobbler.  I can't wait.

SouthLite's Farmer's Market.  
This shot totally does not do justice to how very crowded it gets every Saturday.  I always run into at least one colleague when I'm there.  Today was no exception.

There are always lots of gorgeous flowers.  I love to look at them but I'm not the flower buying type.

Homemade Soap
There are also a lot of homemade crafts (and baked goods) at the Farmer's Market.  This soap always smells amazing but I never buy any.

Fresh Bread
A local bakery sells their amazing breads every week.  The Garlic Rosemary is one of our favorites.  This time we also bought a Cinnamon Raisin bread for breakfast. 

Pickled Beets
Who couldn't resist pickled beets?  Ok, we really can.  b and I have an ongoing joke about beets.  We don't like them yet they follow us where ever we go.

Yellow Squash
Normally I load up on the fresh veggies.  The squash was very appealing but I resisted.  I like that I caught a hand swooping down in this shot. 

One of the things I love about living in the South is the peaches.