No really, post a shelfie!

As it is the holiday time of year, this month’s post will be a short bit of fluff, as opposed to the longer bits of fluff I usually write. I am a reader. If it comes in my mailbox, or I pick it up from a newsstand, I will probably read it. This often leads to interesting things coming into my mind and life.

Recently, my older daughter’s university magazine arrived, and being me, I read it. The thing that caught my attention this time was the centerfold bit. They had taken photos of a bookshelf from a variety of professors and wanted you to match the book collection to the academic. I did read the short bios and thought about which books likely matched their interests, but the part that has stuck with me is the way we can represent ourselves, or make assumptions about others, based on their book shelves. I don’t know about you, but I love to look at the books on display in public spaces in other people’s homes, and as a fan of the selfie shot, this is an idea I am a fan of all around.
As I mentioned last month, I have recently relocated. I don’t just hold on to recipes, I also hold on to books. However, moving from a 3,000 square foot house to a two bedroom apartment made me think long and hard about what books I just “had” to have with me for this interim housing. As an academic, I have a collection of books that are relevant to my research interests and had to come along for practical reasons. However, I also insisted on bringing a sampling of the books that helped define me- the books that I might never read again, but I will probably carry around with me for the rest of my life.

So, I will share two photos with you all, my personal shelfie and my academic shelfie, and I hope to inspire many of you to post yours on twitter! If you @FreeChoiceLab us, we will get to see and share this part of our lives. Could be fun! Oh, and happy holidays- whatever you celebrate!

PS- Michelle Mileham posted the original “shelfie” with her cookbook blog last year!

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What was I thinking??? Or, keep the scissors away from me!

This post will be another one where I have a confession to make. I am a bit obsessed with food. However, it is a very complicated obsession. Having recently relocated to a much smaller space, I have an entire bookshelf devoted to cookbooks and recipes. And it is the pile of recipes that is the concern. It is kind of a towering pile of recipes. I also have two recipe boxes, and a few folders that I have gathered these recipes in, but the pile is always out of control. Organizing them is one of those perpetual tasks that makes it on my “to do” list for Winter/Spring/Summer breaks, when I theoretically have time to deal with them, yet I never seem to make any progress! I do try, I attempt to go through them with a critical eye, “will I really cook this?”, I cut them smaller and glue them to index cards, I try to group them in logical ways (main dishes, desserts, etc…), yet I am always cutting out more, so I never catch up. And I find recipes everywhere, not just Vegetarian Times or Eating Well or magazines devoted to food; I cut recipes out of the newspaper, Yoga Journal, or anything else I read. I also check even more cookbooks out of the library and look through them for intriguing recipes.

Now, in and of itself, this might not seem too odd, but the bizarre reality is that I never really use these recipes. I have the best of intentions, I occasionally go through them as I menu plan for the week (which I also don’t do often enough), but most nights when it is time to cook dinner, I look in my fridge and just make something up. My family is vegetarian and has participated in a CSA (community supported agriculture) program for years, so we get a lot of variety of local produce- it is not that we eat the same thing all the time. However, I seem to cook most meals the same way. I get out my wonderful wok (best wedding present ever! And still in regular use) throw in some oil and onions and then just add piles of chopped veggies and a sauce I have thrown together at the last minute, toss it over a starch/carbohydrate of some kind, and add tofu or some other kind of protein, and serve it. I am fairly versatile, I can do Asian (Thai, Chinese, Japanese), Mediterranean, or Tex-Mex in this way, and that is the way I cook most of the time. Sometimes, I mix it up and throw some of these veggies onto a pizza dough and bake it in the oven, or under a layer of eggs for a frittata- that is about as radical as it gets. So, what is up with that pile of recipes?

I started reflecting on this after my younger daughter asked me last month if I considered myself an “adventurous” cook. I still don’t really know how to answer this. I am somewhat creative with food, but don’t seem to try a lot of new things- either ingredients or recipes. I definitely eat much differently than the way I ate when I was growing up, and cook very differently than my family. I use “real” ingredients and actually cook most things from “scratch”. I am confident in my skills and most people seem to enjoy the food I prepare. I even eat differently than I did ten years ago- kale and beets would not have been on my plate then! Yet it is a slow evolution, often motivated by what I get in my CSA box. I am loathe to waste food, so try to eat what comes into my house. For example, last year, I learned that in some Asian cuisines, they use the carrot greens in cooking, so now I can’t with a clear conscience, compost them anymore.

So, again, what is up with that pile of recipes? I am pretty disciplined about only saving ones with ingredients I will probably like, or that are not too time-consuming or complicated, on the theory that I will be more likely to try them, but very few of them ever make it out of the pile and into our bellies. My best guess is that it is somehow tied to my identity- my image of whom I am. In my more idealized version of myself, I try more new things. I do like learning new things, and gathering new ideas, so this is part of it also. I have a similar issue with wishing I decorated more for the holidays or made more DIY gifts (hmm… I could possibly have written a similar post about knitting patterns and that one hat design I have made hundreds of variations of- might be a trend here…). Regardless, when I was going through that recipe pile one more time, I could not get rid of them! I know I could look things up on the internet, or pick one cookbook and work my through it, and mine is not the most efficient system, but those recipes are important to me for some reason and they will continue to collect in my life, for better or worse.

I guess there are worse obsessions…


Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

I have had quite a few life changes in the last month (hence my excuse for not posting a blog last month!). My partner took a new job, and while we knew it was a possibility we might relocate, it all seemed to happen very suddenly. We had lived in the Eugene area for 15 years, the longest I have ever lived anywhere and the place where our girls had done most of their growing up. Leaving there meant leaving the main social circle I had made since graduating college, my exercise buddies, my yoga studio, and a house we had lived in for 10 years (and had space for us to store LOTS of stuff- but that is its own story…) as well as all the routines I had comfortably settled into over time. Eugene had become the kind of place where I would almost always run into someone I knew at the grocery store- and I appreciated the aspect of my life. Eugene felt like “my place” and I deeply enjoyed living there.

So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I faced this move. When I was in my early 20’s, I relished moving. I actually enjoyed the process of thoroughly going through all of my things and organizing and setting up a new home. However, I loved living in Eugene and couldn’t really ever imagine living anywhere else again. Yet, my partner has been incredibly supportive of me over the years, moving out West because it was my dream, supporting me through my Montessori trainings and now this PhD program, and turnabout is fair play, and that is what couples do for each other! And, really, I am in a flexible position right now. Our girls are in college anyway, and don’t really plan to ever live at home again for any length of time as they start their own lives. My GRA position is flexible in regards to where I do most of my work. So, there was not really any compelling reason for me to resist this change, beyond the normal resistance to change most of us experience.

I put the best face on it, thinking of it as a new adventure, aren’t I an advocate of life-long learning? And Ihelped pack up most of our belongings and trekked up north. We only moved two hours north, but it is a new place, even a new state, and feels much farther away from what I have known. Yet, I find myself actually enjoying the adventure! We moved from a house to a small apartment, as we try to figure out where we might want to put down roots here, and I love the walkability of this new place and the excitement of discovering a new area, as well as a much smaller space to keep tidy. I am trying out new yoga studios, new restaurants, new grocery stores, new theaters, new everything! My partner and I were reflecting that the transition has been much easier than we expected. Maybe I am much more geographically fickle than I realized? But, even in our mid-forties, we are relishing the “newness” of it all. We have decided that for the rest of the year, our focus is just on saying “yes” to new opportunities. I still automatically reply “Oregon”, when people ask me where I am from, but I do feel enthusiasm when I describe my new place in the world.

And, then, as we were packing up our house, my responsibilities for my GRA majorly shifted too- but that is fodder for a future post. Stay tuned as this old dog learns a lot of new tricks these days!