Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beef Stock and French integration policy

Those are the two things I am working on today. Finally--finally!--I am inaugurating our stock pot. I know, I said this would happen at least a month ago, but I'm just now getting to it :)

So I pulled the 8 or so pounds of beef bones out of the freezer, let them thaw in the fridge and started soaking them in cold water and vinegar this morning. I browned the meaty bones (ribs and whatnot) in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, then added them to the stock pot and started boiling the water. In went 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots and 3 chopped celery stocks and then I waited for it to boil. At least 40 minutes later (dang--16 quarts takes a long time to boil!) I've got the pot boiling. I scrape the scum layer off the top with a wooden spoon, add thyme and crushed peppercorns and lower it to to a simmer. Now it has to sit like that for 12-72 hours--yeah, seriously, up to 3 days.

After getting the stock going, I left the house and came to Caffe Vita just down the street to get some work done on my thesis. I can't tell whether I think it's no big deal or a little bit foolish to leave the stovetop on while I'm not in the house--but for today I'm deciding that it's no big deal. Not being in school right now, I have no reason most days to leave the house, which means I stay on the couch, do wedding-related research and read books on Islam and Integration in France. I get things done, of course, but it gets pretty stuffy in that apartment all day. So today I opted for the coffee shop. The barista is playing horrible music and people watching is semi-distracting, but at least I see some sunlight, and I'm out of the house!! (Obviously the fact that I'm writing here means I'm not being super-productive, unless I decide to add 'write on blog' to my list of things to do--then I'm being very productive, indeed).

So I'll work on thesis reading, then return to the house to monitor the stock and make some dinner tonight. I haven't been writing as much about elaborate recipes and preparations in part because some of them are becoming so regular (soaking rice and beans, using raw dairy and grass-fed meats, long marinating, making my own dressings, etc) and also because I'm enjoying eating well while eating simply. Many nights we'll make a carbonara pasta (pancetta, raw parmesan and egg sauce with fettuccine) or a lamb and olive pasta. We often eat farm eggs over medium with sourdough from a local baker toasted with raw butter. And a recent favorite has been grass-fed lamb burgers (marinated for an hour or two with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper) with raw blue cheese, shallots, dijon mustard on sourdough with a salad or sauteed chard. All of these things are pretty simple to prepare, take maybe a half hour in the kitchen (as well as an hour or so in advance for marinating, if you choose) and only cost a fraction of eating out for a good meal.

We're hoping to get a food processor soon, which means all sorts of new projects--I can start fermenting garbanzo beans (soaking with boiling water for 12 hours plus 12 hours) and making falafel at home, as well as dips like homous, and mayonnaise for chicken salad sandwiches. It definitely takes some practice to get into the rhythm of thinking ahead to make these things, but I'm getting more used to it, which means that even when I start back to school at the end of the month I'll be able to maintain this--it doesn't take that much more time, just more thinking ahead.


Like I said in my last entry, I attended a conference over the weekend. The upshot of the whole thing was applying cognitive psychology principles to our daily actions to realize how to be more effective, more goal-oriented and more visionary. It was inspirational in a way, but more than that it required a shift in thinking so that you recognized your long-term ability and potential to effect change in your life. It's been energizing to think about the many projects I am currently working on, as well as future projects and goals--how do I want to, how will I, make these things happen, make them happen well, and then set and realize my next set of goals? For now, my goals include working on my thesis and my upcoming teaching assistantship with full focus and appreciating the process of these projects. I don't want to only complete them, but I want to pay attention to the details, be thorough in my research, enjoy the experience rather than treat them as projects to finish and check off a list. Learning how to effectively research and analyze sociological data, write clear papers and convey those skills to undergraduates will serve me in my next projects, whatever those are. But these skills will serve me more effectively if I give the time and attention to learning them well.

Beyond that comes the visionalizing process (yes, I know this is not a word--if you'd like to make fun of me for it, you can join Micael...:). What comes next?! I don't know, but this can be energizing rather than frightening or frustrating. This conference taught us to set our goals without being concerned about how they will be realized. The 'how' will come if we are committed to making the end goal happen. I know Micael and I currently have the goal of moving to France for at least a year. This has been a frightening goal for both of us, not knowing where we'll find jobs or how to support ourselves or where we'll live (and with what furniture?!). But if we want it, which I think we really do, the 'how' will come. And the 'how' we will reintegrate to life in Seattle and eventually buy a house, find or create jobs and get a dog already (!) once we return from France will also come once we get to the point to set those as our next goals. But for now, the next steps are taking shape as are the ideas of how they will come...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Think Weird

I am attending a conference this weekend and this is the advice I received just before we let out for lunch--Think Weird. Get outside your box, think differently, experiment, play, shake and shout and sing and do a funny dance. Obviously the man delivering this advice had no qualms about doing any of these things in front of an audience of 200, yet still, even without his comic fearlessness, one could still do these their own way. Think weird.

The way I am translating this is, essentially, don't be afraid to be different. Think outside the box of what is possible, probable, likely or even desirable. It's not usually difficult for me to do this, but I can get stuck when I get so set an idea (that I imagine is outside the box) that I'll run that idea into the ground rather than invent a new idea. I know when I get stuck. We all do. I get stuck when I keep thinking in circles without coming up with any new solutions. I'm in a place like that right now. My vision is pretty shortsighted and I'm scared of things 'not working out'. Where did my courage go? I'm not sure, but I'm feeling pretty determined right now to find it.

I'll let you know when I discover my new vision. For now, back to the conference and getting more comfortable with weird thinking.