Monday, 30 April 2012

Interviewed for "Green" Living

WATE's Josh Ault interviewed me for an Earth Day story regarding green living. I never even considered myself as a trail blazer in this area but I am so excited about Josh's willingness to bring attention to recycling, composting and conserving rain water.

Watch the video here.

Rossini Fest 2012


The Rossini Festival started this weekend and a bunch of friends met up to walk around, sip wine, listen to opera and enjoy the sunshine.


The Rossini Festival is on its 11th year in Knoxville and benefits the Knoxville Opera. This  year it is estimated that 100,000 people showed up.


We listed to different forms of music, sampled delicious food and mostly enjoyed the social aspect of it. We put down a large blanket in Krutch Park (just next to Gay Street) and listened to the opera singers and watched Shakespearian actors from Pelissippi State perform Romeo and Juliet.


The Rossini Festival is dog friendly so our friends Katie and Jonathan brought their bulldog down. His name is Athos and is such a sweetheart.


The evening ended with more music from the Johnson Swingtet with Brad Walker of the Brad Walker Orchestra at Crown and Goose (not only does Brad play a mean trombone, he knows how to dance!). Such a fun day and evening. Can't wait for next year!


Friday, 27 April 2012

I'm Going Back

My PhD cohort received our 1st year evaluation letters last night. I've been invited back for another year at the University of Tennessee. Woohoo!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

In Celebration of 420 Day

It is highly rewarding to have an herb garden. Not only can you use fresh herbs in your cooking whenever you feel like it, you can also dry them for use in the winter. Rosemary, oregano, mint and chives are all perennials so once you put them in the ground, you'll have them forever. I decided to blog about herbs because of 420 Day this month. That's the day every year (at least in the US) when people who smoke herbs (marijuana) celebrate the weed and protest against its illegality. NOTE: I do not smoke marijuana but I love herbs.


So far this year, I've dried Rosemary, oregano, mint and basil. I'm trying to fill up little glass jars so when I cleared out the garden yesterday (some of the varieties can take off like weeds) I put some more out to dry.

Rosemary (left), oregano (right)

When drying herbs (I learned this from my grandma!), just rinse and pat dry, then place in bundles and wrap with a rubber band. Hang them upside down and wait patiently for a week. When the leaves are dry, put them in a jar with a lid on tightly. You can also dry herbs in the microwave or oven but that takes a little more effort.

Spearmint 

Cooking with dry herbs is just as easy as cooking with fresh herbs. Just remember to crush them up a bit before adding to the pot to release the oil. That adds more flavor. 

I read in a cooking article by Linda Larsen on About.com that "the ratio for using dried herbs to fresh herbs is 1:3. So, if a recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of fresh basil, and you only have dried, use 1 teaspoon."

Last night I made homemade tomato sauce for spaghetti using leftover ham. It was tasty with the addition of fresh oregano and fresh garlic chives. (Chives do not dry well but come back every year if you plant them in the ground.)


1 can diced tomatoes with oregano, onion
1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced ham
1/2 onion
2 large garlic cloves
2 T fresh garlic chives
2 T fresh oregano
2 T olive oil
1/2 c water
salt
fresh cracked pepper

Coat pan with olive oil. Chop onion, add to oil. Smash and chop garlic, add to onion and oil. (Tip - I always add about 1 T of water so the garlic won't brown.) Add a tiny bit of salt to sweat the onions. Add meat (pork works nicely because the fat cooks the garlic and onions just a bit and gives great flavor). When hot, pour in can of tomatoes with juice and can of tomato soup. Add a 1/4 cup water and simmer.

Prepare pasta. Mix pasta and sauce in the pan to coat. Top with salt (not too much, the soup/ham provide a salty taste), cracked pepper and fresh oregano. Serves 2. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Advertisement Perpetrates Inequality

Have you seen the Farmer's Insurance commercial where the employees are dressed up like Avenger characters? Watch it here.

Because of my PhD experience this year, I think a little differently about some aspects of our culture. I notice forms of behavior and oppressive media messages that may be subtle or overt but messages none the less.

One of those messages that I would argue need to be changed has to do with Patriarchy and  gender inequality. What is Patriarchy? A modern day definition (mine) would be: when men, in general, are more powerful in a society or culture, in more positions of authority and have more influence on a society than women. Practices of Patriarchy have to do with behavior or organizations that prohibit women from being as important or as powerful as men in a culture or society.

Here's how the Farmer's Insurance commercial goes:

Women and male employees are dressed up as Avenger characters (the movie is coming out soon). Their boss (white male) is standing in front of them giving them orders. One employee (minority ethnic male) shoots a dart gun at a target to show his skills. He misses. The boss shakes his head, takes the gun, fires without looking at the target and hits the bullseye. Everyone is impressed. An employee (white female) says in awe, "How did you do that...?" The boss walks to her, puts one finger to her lips and says "SHHHHH" to stop her from talking.

I'm sure the creators of the ad didn't mean to present cookie-cutter, cliche gender and race inequality messages but what does the commercial reflect?

Females should be silenced.
Females are not as important as males.
The minority male is inept.
The white male is in power because all others are incompetent.

My soap box is cracking so I won't stand on it much longer - however, I brought this up in a non-threatening way to a male friend. His response? "Uh. Oh. Don't be a man-hater." Honestly, that response was frustrating. I wanted to discuss the message in an abstract way but felt that my observation was "dismissed" immediately.

One way perhaps to react to ideas about inequality would be acceptance of the possibility that males and females are not on an even playing field. This at least would allow the mind to be open to observations in culture and society of messages and behavior that frame women as less important (not as smart, weaker) compared to men. Awareness helps.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Student Leadership


This week, I was invited to the final Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate meeting of the year. Newly elected leaders were sworn in and 2011 Presidents presented awards to their top members. Amanda (the new UTK GSS president) and I were voted GSS members of the year for our work on various projects.


We were honored with our names on a plaque that will be displayed in the SGA office on campus. 


I really enjoyed being the GSS representative for the College of Communication and Information Science this year. During the first semester of our PhD program, one of our professors told us to avoid all non-required "service" positions. Perhaps he was right because I spent a lot of time serving in this position that could have been spent on research but I was also appointed to the Council for Diversity and Interculturalism with deans from across campus. I now "know people" and get to work with folks that have the same goal in mind: equality for UTK students and staff despite race, gender, economic status and sexual orientation.

Outgoing Pres and VP and the incoming Pres and VP

The other major bonus? I have new (really smart) friends and I know how to get around the gorgeous law building on campus (where GSS would meet monthly).

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Lesson at the Airport

I wanted to blog about this ages ago but forgot and have had no time to regularly post but I appreciate you hanging on and checking out my site when you can.

When I went to Bald Head Island to visit my family, I was waiting to board a flight in Atlanta and learned an important lesson. It was a Delta flight and a heavy travel day. The attendant was announcing the boarding process and started with first class, as normal. People started forming a line and an older man got in line as well. When he made it to the attendant, she said, "This is for FIRST CLASS passengers only!" He didn't seem to quite understand and people behind him groaned. He stood there. She gave him his ticket back and picked up the microphone.

"PLEASE do not board until your zone is called!! We are trying to get this flight off the ground on time." She was frustrated. How can you blame her? How many times did she have to explain to passengers to "Look at your ticket, find your zone and board when I call it."

I inwardly shook my head. Thinking, "Wow. Some people..." Something still seemed a bit off, however, and I watched the guy leave the line and walk back to two other people. They looked at him expectantly, perhaps a little apprehensively. Here's the thing... he started signing to them. The man was hearing impaired and couldn't hear the ZONE NUMBER as it was called.

He approached the line again when she called the next number, but it was still apparently  not his zone number. The attendant was about to go off again but he handed her a card, I assume showing that he was deaf. She was clearly embarrassed for being impatient with the man. She smiled and waved him on. He boarded immediately, with no other problems.

Things are not always what they seem. How often are we impatient with others before knowing where they come from or what they deal with? It was a great reminder of the importance of compassion and kindness. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Easy Summer Meal


Couscous, fresh herbs, tomatoes:

1 cup dry couscous
1 can tomatoes, diced with basil, onions, oregano
1 cup boiling water
Fresh basil, oregano (torn and mashed)

Combine, poor boiling water in, cover tightly, let sit for five minutes, fluff with fork, add fresh herbs, cracked paper and salt to taste.


Simple Peach Sorbet

1 can of peaches with syrup (frozen)
2 T bottled lemon juice
Fresh mint for garnish

Submerge can of peaches in hot water for 1-2 minutes. Pour syrup into food processor, add lemon juice. Cut up frozen peaches, add to processor and blend until smooth. I'm going to try other frozen fruits! Super easy and tasty. Found this in a "canned food" cookbook.

I also brewed iced tea and added fresh spearmint. Nice for a quick lunch... 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ella in Columbus

My mom can be very up on new spots in Columbus. She did a bit of research and read about Ella, a new restaurant in New Albany. The place is especially interesting because it was opened in conjunction with the Hayley Gallery


While you wait for your table, you take your glass into the gallery and peruse work from local artisans.


Even on a Saturday evening, our table was ready on time and we started with the charcuterie (local cheeses, cured meats, house marinated olives, crostini). Service was impeccable and our server knew her wine well and made excellent selections for the table. 


Mom and I shared the Ella Beet Salad and we agreed that the golden variety was smokey and delicious... tasting like the earth. (Don't you just love that about beets?) From the menu: Red and gold beets, arugula tossed in lemon thyme vinaigrette, fennel, goat cheese, candied walnuts and apple ribbons. This is enough for a meal in itself. Gorgeous taste combination!


Dannen ordered the wedge salad and enjoyed every bite. For our main dish, mom and I decided on the Minted Lemon Grilled Lamb Chop. (Dad ordered the Porterhouse and I think Dannen had the Sirloin.) It was perfectly prepared if not a bit on the rare side (that's how I prefer it). 


Isn't that beautifully presented? From the menu: 8oz chop, sauté of local kale, early tomatoes, white beans, curried cucumber yogurt. In the US, lamb isn't as popular as it is in the UK. I find that chefs aren't always sure what to do with it and it comes out a bit tasteless. This was an exception to that rule! I can't wait to go back and order this dish again.


Before leaving we learned why the restaurant carries the name of Ella. It's an acronym for "Eat Local. Love Art." We did love our experience. Even the lighting is sophisticated and while the place is very busy, the atmosphere was chill.

Friday, 13 April 2012

There Have Been Better Days

I rushed back from Columbus on Monday to make it to my favorite class, Social Media 660. Along the way I hit the traffic from the massive rock slide on 75 South. I knew about it from a friend and read about it on the TDOT website. Oh well. Still didn't plan enough time for the back-up but c'est la vie. Rolling on, I texted a cohort member asking her to let our prof know that I might be late.

Cool. I pull into the Hertz store parking lot and quickly unloaded all of my things (including furniture I gathered in Columbus) and went in to drop off the key. The office was very busy. No worries. I still had time to make it to class and only barely be late. I check out, head to my ride and crank the key. Nothing.

Again, crank. Not even a cricket had the decency to chirp. Awesome. I fear my battery is dead so I go back inside, and calmly ask the nice man behind the counter if he has a set of jumper cables. He does but he has to help two other customers and take two phone calls while I wait. No worries. He is very busy. He gives me the cables.

I pull the rental car around and pop my hood. I remember. There's no stand that holds the hood up and there was no way I was going to be able to use jumper cables while simultaneously holding the hood up. Hmmm. Improvising, I unload one of the gorgeous bar chairs that would hopefully be soon sitting in my kitchen and prop the hood up by placing the chair in the engine portion of the car. I hate to use the word "ghetto" because it implicates such stereo-typifications but I was definitely "ghetto-ing" it up right there in the Hertz parking lot for God and everyone to see.

Keep going. I attempt to draw on any and all knowledge I have of how to jump a car. I've seen it performed before but have never personally done it. Oh well. It can't be that hard, right? It wasn't - but it didn't work. (Later, my father told me that sometimes older batteries need to sit hooked up on cables for a bit before trying to fire it up).

Okay. Now what? I check my rental car out again and go to Walmart - just down the road. A nice gentleman helps me pick out the correct battery and suggests an expensive ($12) ratchet set. "Are you sure this is what I'm going to need to change the battery?," I ask. "Yip. This one 'ere 'll do it." Confident in his mechanical skills, and wary of mine, I take my purchase out to the rental ride and go back to Hertz. Quickly watching a YouTube video on how to change the battery, I pop open the hood again. Insert chair.

You knew this was coming... the ratchet set did not include the right size and thus did not work to loosen the bolts on the arm which holds the battery on the tray. (Usually at this point someone with more intelligence would take a few deep breaths and call a tow truck for help but I'm not your average gal and only very occasionally exert stubborn tendencies.) I went back inside the rental car store. At this point, I could tell the guy behind the counter was getting weary. He looked up from the computer behind the desk with the phone to his ear and a flash of hope danced across his eyes. He was undoubtedly praying that I would soon be taking the bar stool out of the front of my car and driving off of his lot, but no. He saw my face and became visibly disappointed. Refusing to be daunted, I mouthed, "Do you have a wrench?"

He nods, finishes his call, helps another customer and finds a wrench, actually smiling when he hands it over. Bless his heart. I know he was putting on a brave face.

I get the arm off of the battery and without the proper tools (thank you, dear Walmart auto shop employee) just cannot loosen the bolts to remove the connectors. I was SO close! At this point, I truly would have asked someone for help but strangely at that moment, there were no other customers and Brad (rental specialist - we were on a first-name basis at that point) was busy with phone calls and cleaning the cars that had just arrived. (Read: He was avoiding me.)

Deep breaths. Positive thoughts. I walked around the left side of the car to check the glove box for any other tools and that's when the straw broke the camel's back. I had a flat tire. Surprisingly, I've become much calmer in my older years and I did not cry, throw a fit or kick the tire. (Full transparency here: I did curse like a sailor in my mind.)

Going back into the rental shop, I smiled at Brad, handed over the wrench and said sweetly, "Is is possible that I can have the rental car for one more evening?" He breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Of course!" I unloaded my things from my car, packing them all back into the rental car and drove home. Of course at this point I was defeated, exhausted AND had completely missed class. Why me?

Luckily, the next morning a wonderful man (with the correct tools) changed the battery in less than 15 minutes and also had an air compressor (!!) with which he boosted my tire. I was ready to roll and the car fired right up. He made it look so easy. Too easy, really. I guess you can't be good at everything. Hope your Monday was better than mine. :)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Summertime

Interesting perspective last night over dinner with a new friend. I was talking about my summer schedule which includes teaching and classes but it isn't as heavy as my fall and spring semesters. This worries me and I feel that I should be full speed all the time in order to finish this PhD program in the expected three years.

He gave an interesting perspective. "You've worked full-time for almost a decade before this. Sounds like it has been a tough year. It's okay to take time to recharge. That's why people go on sabbatical. Welcome the opportunity."

So, rather than already feeling guilty that my schedule isn't as jam-packed as it could be, I'm going to get organized early and accomplish as much as I can on research projects (time to start submitting for publication) while I have the freedom. That's IF I can make it through the next four weeks and finals. I have three major papers due that have been on the back burner while I completed and submitted two papers to my industry's top conference, AEJMC.

We made the Sunday April 1st deadline for those! I might take a moment to celebrate that milestone over the weekend but then it is back to work. :) 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mad Men is Back


I don't watch a lot of TV but my best friend Casey got me absolutely HOOKED on an AMC program, Mad Men. The setting is the 1960s in New York City and the civil rights and women's movements are just kicking off. The men are powerful advertising agents who wear dapper suits and the women are secretaries trying to push forward in their marginalized careers or at least get married... 

A friend and I love the show and have been doing small Mad Men "parties" with 60s era details. This week, we tried fondue! I've been reading food critic books lately for research I'd like to conduct over the summer and came across this fondue recipe in Elizabeth David's fabulous book, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. It was tasty!



CHEESE AND GUINNESS FONDUE (makes one pint)

2 lb. grated cheddar cheese 
1/2 pint Guinness (good measure) 
6-8 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
salt
pepper
cayenne pepper
1 level Tablespoon cornflour

Put grated cheese into a 7-inch fondue dish or enameled iron casserole and melt gently, stirring continuously. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the fondue thickens slightly. For dipping, use chunks of French bread or toast.


I brought celery, carrots and French bread for dipping. The experience was so much fun. I'm certainly going to be on the look out for a fondue pot at thrift stores. Next week we're going to try dessert fondue. Please post any recipes that you know of or tips for fondue. I've never cooked over a little flame like this but thankfully, it was a success!