Monday, September 15, 2014

Porch sitting our own souls: Why it's crucial we unplug and slow down

Every single morning, my day starts the same. At least initially, there is very little variation. I roll over in bed, blinking at the light and trying to swim back into consciousness. I wonder what time it is or if I need to turn off an alarm. So I grab my phone—the modern woman’s clock, calendar and camera all in one. And then it begins. It’s not enough to look at the time. I have to immediately download the slew of vaguely important, definitely intriguing data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my usual round of websites. Every. Single. Day.
This morning, I did the exact same thing. I slept in for once, because it’s Saturday, darn it. The bedroom was bright and sunny when I awoke, and the first thing I saw were the vintage paperbacks arranged on the mantle in my bedroom. I thought about how pretty they looked and flashed back to something I said to my roommate the previous day about how all I wanted to do this weekend was lie in bed with a book and some kittens. Then, the conscious curiosity interrupted the subconscious mind wandering and brain noodling over whatever dreams I’d had the night before and how they related to whatever is actually going on in my life. The dream about work. Fretting a little about how a gift went over. Wondering what the day will hold. 
And, bam, that’s it, I needed to know the time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Stocking up

We are healthier when we cook our own food for a very simple reason: when we cook, we control the ingredients that go into the food. The companies that prepare so much of the takeout, frozen entrĂ©es, mix-and-eat boxes and restaurant meals that we eat are motivated by a desire for us to spend money on their food, so they’ll throw in whatever it takes for them to turn a profit and keep us coming back for more. Quite often, that involves a lot of salt, sugar and ingredients that come out of a chemistry lab, not from a farm.

I found the breathtaking quote at right during a fascinating talk from food writer Michael Pollan about how cooking can change your life (the quote below at left also comes from the same video). The problem, though, is that cooking takes a lot of time, planning and effort. And if you’re already juggling jobs, kids, pets, friends, job training, school, caring for elderly parents, budget pressures and your own desperate need to just go soak in a tub for a while, cooking can be really hard.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

On the edge of 17: Loving the person you always were

My mom sent me a bunch of photos from 2004 for a piece I'm writing for Ten years ago. I miss that fierce, fearless, unabashed girl I used to be. Looking at these photos, I remember what it was like to be innocent, to believe in everything, to love freely without knowing hurt and to feel like anything was possible.
Looking at these photos, I know for a minute what it's like to go back to the edge of 17.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Quick, healthy pasta

This brown rice and spinach pasta was tossed with olive oil, freshly ground pepper, a bit of pasta water and some grated gruetli from the Sequatchie Cove Creamery. (Photo: Alice)
I’ve been having one of those weeks where every evening I’m still scrambling to get things done when I’m supposed to be cooking dinner. I really like to cook and usually enjoy long hours spent in the kitchen, chopping and mincing and rolling and mixing. But lately, there just hasn’t been time for all that. I imagine a lot of people have been feeling the same time crunch as we all recover from the holiday break, late summer vacations and the return to school.
On those days when dinner needs to be on the table 15 minutes after I walk in the door, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to reach for pasta. By using some leftovers or a few pantry items, I can have a restaurant-quality meal done in the time it takes to boil the water and simmer some spaghetti. It can be different and delicious every time, and I never have to resort to using pasta sauce from a jar.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

CARTA Diaries: Chattanooga's own Cuban redneck

I walked from my office to Barre One, eyeing the mounting storm clouds and picking up my pace, worried about being late to my workout class or getting rained on en route. As I power walked past the future Tennessee Stillhouse, I noticed a wiry man sitting on the steps up to a loading dock at the back of some Market Street building. He waved and said hello. I nodded and kept up my race to the studio. He was just another friendly homeless guy, and I had places to be. 
After class, I emerged to find the rains had passed and the skies were sunny and bright. My stomach growled, and I began thinking about dinner. I needed to pick up cream for the soup I was going to make. To buy the groceries I’d have to get to The Grocery Bar, the nearest store. I could grab an electric shuttle and walk the rest of the way. If I didn’t buy too many items, I could get them back to the Choo-Choo, hop on the shuttle back to City Center and catch my bus home. It was still early, and I had plenty of time to deal with transfers and a little walking. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

When friends are like family: Making time for relationships that matter

One of the worst feelings in the world might be forgetting your best friend’s birthday. And one of the most informative signs that your priorities are out of whack and you are living life all wrong is when, in a 24-hour span, your best friend not only informs you that you forgot her birthday, but your boss tells you that you might be taking on too much at work. After hearing both these things recently, I tried to figure out how things had gone so wrong. 
I pulled up my Google calendar and looked back at the past couple of weeks. I tried to see what I’d done that day instead of celebrating how awesome my friend is. I thought about all the things I’d done instead of focusing on her in the past month, and honestly, half of them were things I’d felt obligated to do, that I didn’t know how to say no to.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Instant bread

There aren’t many things that are quite so awesome as bread that is still warm from cooking. Moist and airy, it is filled with fragrance and flavor. And whatever you put on it (a bit of cheese, a blob of peanut butter or some creamy butter) quickly gets melty and gooey.
I love warm bread so much so that I try to avoid making more than I can eat before it cools. And since most days I’m just cooking for two, I don’t make loaves of bread very often. I like to cook bread in smaller batches, and I have a few different methods of doing so. One of them is the chapati, a pita-like flatbread; but unlike yeasted pita, a chapati is unleavened, which allows for a much simpler, more flexible preparation.
A fresh chapati puffing up on a hot cast-iron skillet. (Photo: Alice)