Last May, I had the privilege of attending the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Affectionately called K’zoo or the Zoo by medievalists who attend.) This trip was a rather exciting career experience, because it’s one of the largest medieval conferences in the world, and I was presenting a paper. Due to a series of strange circumstances, it ended up being my second conference paper presentation (my first was at the CCCC two months earlier. I’m still a very green academic). All-in-all, my paper went fairly well. I was entirely unhappy with it, but I got some compliments on it. The other two presenters in my session were fascinating and left me with a lot to think about regarding my paper. I also have several ideas for expanding the research I did for this paper. That in itself was rewarding, because I hadn’t written the paper for a seminar. I researched it completely independently, and I was worried that it was actually a strange tangent from my other research interests. I also got to attend several very good sessions, including some interesting papers on translation theory and practice, medievalisms in video games, and an excellent paper by Elaine Treharne on The Silence and Noise in Middle English, 1016-1066. Read the rest of this entry »



Enlightened kitty is enlightened



One of the most freeing, and fun, habits that I developed after Aingeal and I started dating was meal planning. Since I love to talk about food, what I’m making, what I want to make, and what just didn’t come out quite right, I figure that posting my meal plans here and talking about our dietary choices will be constructive.

Several things go into our meal planning: cost, taste, and health being the biggest. Someday I would like ethics to play a bigger role in my decision making, but that (currently) is precariously balanced with cost. For the last couple years I’ve been eating a semi-vegetarian, which has a lot of hills and valleys. Aingeal, while respecting my choices, has a lot of issues with the concept of a vegetarain diet (and don’t even say vegan in his presence). My reasons were primarily cost and health, with a good dose of ethics, but the cost thing didn’t work out like I’d hoped, because Aingeal isn’t enchanted by vegetarian cooking. He also seems convinced that vegetarian cuisine isn’t tasty.

We’ve had many heated discussions about this.

So, for several reasons, I’ve been cooking less vegetarian food. I’ve also found myself eating more meat than I like to. I’ve been eating meat at least one meal per day for the last few months, which is much more than I wanted. I had cut myself back to one meal per week. Now that we don’t have roommates or wedding planning, I’m shifting our meal choices.

How do I plan our meals? Typically I plan three to four dinners per week, and then we will eat two to three meals as leftovers and sometimes one meal out. Leftovers work great for us, because Aingeal is a chef and he works most evenings. I’m also usually on campus at least two evenings a week. Leftovers let us eat no matter when we get home, and they take the stress off of feeding ourselves when the day has been long an mean.

Here’s what I have planned for the coming week:

Minestrone with Oatmeal Toasting Bread – The fall weather is finally hinting at winter here in St. Louis, so I’ve found myself craving a big pot of soup. I’ve never made minestrone, and it’s been so long since I’ve had it. It sounds hearty and delicious and wonderful. I’m going to try the recipe that Kath just posted on Kath East Real Food. Because soup demands bread, and I haven’t made a good loaf of homemade bread in a while, I’m going to make some of Farmgirl Susan’s Oatmeal Toasting Bread. So much yum.

Skillet Gardener’s Pie – One of my all time favorite casseroles. Just as tasty as Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie), but less heavy and more veggie-full. This makes a huge amount, and I usually get two days of leftovers out of it.

Quiche – I haven’t made quiche in a while. I’m thinking some broccoli, cheddar, and potato quiche sounds tasty. I might have enough greens to do a small side salad with it, since I’m getting spinach for the other two meals.

Pumpkin pancakes with bacon and scrambled eggs – This is actually our Thanksgiving day breakfast. But the leftover pancakes will likely be around for another meal. I usually make oatmeal pancakes, but ’tis the season for pumpkin!

10 things

1. I’m back at school and reconnecting with some awesome friends and colleagues.
2. I’m officially a PhD student.
3. I’m getting married in about 2 months.
4. The dog has graduated from being crated while alone.
5. I baked pizza last night, and it was yummy.
6. Aingeal complimented my pizza. ❤
7. The heat wave broke.
8. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a fun little series.
9. Pandora finally got the mix right on my Joni Mitchell channel. It’s perfect work music.
10. I’ve reviewed the revisions that need to be made to my CV. I’m fairly impressed with what I accomplished as an MA.

First of all, here are seven steps to happiness.

Second, how to be alone:

This is what Sunday afternoon looks like

Unless you're the princess who thinks I'm finished in the kitchen

I want to be a hippie when I grow up.  I’ve realized in the last couple years that I sort of know what that looks like, and part of it is not me. But part of it is.  When I make list and priorities and set goals, there is a part of me, in the back of my mind, running barefoot in my parents yard singing to the summer.  When I feel the wind in my face, I think of surrender, and sun, and trees, and fresh-cut grass, and hikes in the woods, and serenity, and then I say to myself: “I want to be a hippie when I grow up.”

Of course, there are several problems with just whole sale claiming that title. For one, I was born in 1979. I missed the summer of love by a good decade or two.  Second, I haven’t yet mastered surrender enough for a transcendental psychedelic experience (or the illegal drugs that go along with it). Third, I’m not much of a radical.  Maybe I am, but I don’t think I am.  I’m also too frightened to be a radical.  There’s not much in-your-face, stick-it-to-the-man in me.  But there are a lot of places in my life that, I suppose, some non-radicals might be appalled.

So, that establishes what I am not.  What do I mean, then, by “I want to be a hippie when I grow up.”  I suppose I should stop using that word, since it’s not accurate, but there are two things that I outright associate with this picture of myself and my life: intention and surrender.  1) Living and intentional, engaged, aware, and present life. 2) Surrendering to what the world has to offer (without accepting injustice).  Do you see the strange delicate balance?  This also means an engagement with the broader world,  not just the human.  Connection with nature, living in the rural, getting out of the urban, appreciating the beauty and savagery of the world.  Voluntary simplicity.  Ethical eating. A connection with my food.  A consciousness to the waste I produce and attempts to minimize it.  Being a steward to the earth and being a part of the earth. A spirituality that embraces these ideals and also explores mystery through myth and storytelling.  Respecting my body as the temple that it is – that doesn’t mean living a pristine life, but that means enjoying and respecting and caring for my fleshiness.  Movement, eating to live, embracing sex as a healthy part of my life, feeding both my body and my mind. Caring for my home, because it cares for me.  Instilling my life with a sense of ritual.

My mother might not realize it if she read this, but a lot of these values are values that were instilled in me in our rural Christian home.  Hard work, a respect and love for yourself and your family, a respect and love for the earth that is our home.  I may have found the place where I want to practice this realization ultimately through Paganism, but the path that led me there was a conservative Christian home.  I don’t see my desire to live in joyful, respectful, fully present, intentional, ethical simplicity at all at odds with my conservative Christian upbringing.  Why do I feel so out-of-place when I go home then?

Yesterday, I turned thirty-one.

Most days, I’m happy with my life. Today I’m feeling vulnerable.  I’m questioning a lot of choices and priorities.  I suppose every person has to wade through those choices.  Those priorities.  I finish my master’s degree this spring, and I’m wondering if continuing on for my PhD is really… right for me. I never doubted it before. At any step.  Is it just the stress that I’m feeling at the end of the semester? Really, I’m about a week behind on everything that I want to have any headway in.

I’m beginning to think that I’m trying to hard to construct myself. I need to find a balance between intention and surrender.

Tonight. Tonight, I just want someone to buy me ice cream, to tell me that it will be okay, and to lay in the grass and look at the stars with me.

Happy birthday, feet! I needed new running shoes. And hiking shoes. And river shoes. 😀 My best friend convinced me to try out Vibram Five Fingers and I’ve decided I love them.  I tried them on today and took them for a 3/4 mile run. They’ll take some getting used to, but hopefully the excitement will keep me training regularly over the next few weeks.