Wednesday, October 29, 2008

bonus thanks: milwaukee film

Didn't get a chance to post on this earlier, so this will be a short one. Thanks to everyone that came out to the Milwaukee Film - Milwaukee Show event last Thursday. I volunteered at the event and was so excited to see the line stretch all the way up Farwell.

Kudos to the limited staff for getting it together and selecting a diverse slate of films all by local filmmakers to reintroduce the audience to film festing in Milwaukee.

Here's to a great future!

The next Milwaukee Film event will be a screening of Song Sung Blue at the Oriental Theatre on November 6th at 7:15 p.m. The event is $10 and tickets can be purchased at the Oriental Box Office.

music madness: yeasayer, meh say i

My begging paid off and my boyfriend, who has access to those sort of things, hooked me up with two tickets to tonight's Yeasayer show at Turner Hall around 4 this afternoon. Since in one of my money-saving schemes I've forced myself to miss several Rocktober shows, I was quite excited to get a chance to squeeze one in and for free no less.

BF is not really into indie rock that doesn't RAWK, so I diligently tried to find a concert buddy on such short notice. No luck. I putzed around at home (cleaned half my stove--yay) for a few hours and headed down to Turner just before 9, hoping to hit when Yeasayer went on. (Apparently opening band Chairlift is in an iPod commercial, I could live with missing). Unfortunately the band did not go on until 9:29, so in the meantime I discovered twitter is the new smoking. Needless to say I sent several irrelevant texts to it during the wait.

Yeasayer started out strong (or maybe I was just transfixed by their groovy Ikea-inspired lighting scheme), but after awhile I found my mind wandering quite a bit. I definitely like the band (I gave a thorough listen to their recent "All Hour Cymbals" prior to heading down and was reassured), but I am not convinced I liked the band live. Now part of it is that I've been severely spoiled and throughout my twenties have seen some of the most amazing contemporary (and classic) bands there are. But I've always maintained that the one thing that separates a good show from a great show from an AMAZING show is the engagement level the band has with the audience. Yeasayer was about a 2 out of 10 in that category. Yes they played well, yes they have strong songs, yes they're polished--but I got the feeling they were just up there JUST putting on a performance, not creating something.

Glad I went, but I guess a little disappointed. Of course the last show I went to was Spirtualized, so yeah, I am spoiled.

Were you at the show tonight? Your thoughts?

thankful tuesdays: belated edition

Meant to post this last night, but better late than never (or next tuesday). I'm going to try and give 7 thanks each "Thankful Tuesday" to cover the week.

  • Thanks to those who are starting to read my blogs and leaving relevant comments. You're inspiring me to start doing the same. As a follow up to the Blog Action Day post, please check out this fantastic take by Urban Milwaukee on Poverty & Transit
  • Thanks to my friends who convinced me to try twitter. Granted I can't find one of them on there, but I've been able to connect with a lot of pretty awesome creative folks here in the Milwaukee area. Unlike facebook where there is there is an emphasis on "friends," twitter opens up the field for you to connect with whoever you want without those underlying high-schoolesque social rules (defining "friend"). I'm sure it'll eventually morph that way, but I'm enjoying it now to learn a lot about the engaged creative community in my town! By the way, my twitter is here.
  • Thanks to the other volunteers at the Barack Obama Campaign for Change. I'm having such a wonderful time working on this campaign. Everyone is just so nice at the offices and so appreciative of any time you have to give, even if it's just an hour after work. It's such a different vibe than the Kerry campaign. The community organizing approach truly keeps everyone focused on the common mission of getting Barack elected. Let's just hope we do next Tuesday! (I will have some MAJOR thanks).
  • Thanks to everyone who has voted early. It's been amazing to watch this phenomenon develop this year. I would have never thought about doing this in past years, but it definitely seems to be the "in" thing this year. I went last Friday.
  • Thanks to Dr. Bonner, the doctor at the Aurora Travel Clinic I went to last week. He was very thorough in his consulation and very conscious of the fact that immunizations cost a ton of money not covered by insurance. I feel confident that his "definite" and "maybe" list will both help me not get sick in India and not cost me as much as it would if I just got every shot on the CDC list.
  • Thanks to my boyfriend who played iron chef last night and made me a fantastic dinner of shredded chicken, bell peppers and tomato over angel hair.
  • Thanks to my friends Jane and Becky who hung out with me on Friday and Saturday night respectively. It was great to catch up! And a bonus thanks to my friend Steph who was here from DC and invited us to meet out at the party she was at.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

sunday catch up: a missed blog action day and my personal curse

I find it rather interesting that my computer crashed on the eve of Blog Action Day , the same year that my bike blew a spoke on the second day of Bike to Work Week. Why are the community action gods so offended by my efforts?

At any rate, I was nothing short of totally inspired by the amount of participation I saw in this effort. It seemed almost every other blog in my Google Reader had some mention of the event and a post relating to Poverty, which was this year's theme.

My attention to poverty has been heightened quite a bit in the past year through my personal and professional commitment to public transportation, through my new-found interest in the politics of food and of course through my obsession with the 2008 election and depression-era economic climate.

Public Transportation
It's so hard for me to comprehend how people can overlook mass transit as a critical tool in breaking the cycle of poverty. Public transportation connects people with jobs and education. It also much less expensive than the cost of owning, maintaining and insuring a personal vehicle. Not to mention the environmental benefits, which can also overlap with poverty issues (i.e. better air quality is better for impoverished children with respiratory problems, etc.). I realize this one paragraph is only skimming the service of the greater argument, which I certainly do hope to lay out in greater detail in future blog posts.

ACTION ITEM: One step you can do to improve this factor of the poverty cycle is vote for dedicated transit funding on November 4. If you live in Milwaukee County, you will see the referendum for transit, parks and emergency medical services. Just mark the arrow next to "YES" to show your support. For more information on this issue you can visit the Quality of Life Alliance website.

Politics of Food
You've certainly been subjected to my own food rants lately, but again, I strongly urge you to read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This book really cracked open a whole vault of interest for me in food issues. Next up I'd like to read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

ACTION ITEM: One organization I've been hearing more and more about lately (though it's been around forever) and whose catalog I just received is Heifer International. I'm very interested in learning more about organizations that tie together sustainable agriculture and poverty. Up until this point I'd really only focused on the "give a man a fish" side, versus the "teach a man to fish" aspect. I think both sides are important though, and that's why I'm personally committed to giving fish (or hot dogs, ham, etc.) to Milwaukee's homeless once a month by volunteering at the Open Door Café at St. John's Cathedral. I encourage anyone who wishes to come along with me sometime.

Poverty and the 2008 Election
As unfortunate as the economic meltdown has been, I think it's somewhat positive that it's shining a consistent light on the symptoms of poverty that are beginning to lick at even the middle class in America. I have high hopes that more permanent solutions can be implemented under our next president.

ACTION: PLEASE vote. In most places you can vote NOW. If you live in the city of Milwaukee, go to the Zeidler Building and do it as soon as possible.

sunday catch up: eating locally, tracking poorly

As you may recall, I was very ambitious a month or so ago about my eating habits.
I pledged to eat one local meal a day for the month of October. Even if that means just eating an apple for breakfast from a local orchard, I'm committed to doing it. And I truly do hope to keep this blog more active with updates.

Unfortunately, I was a really bad pledge keeper. I guess that's not entirely fair to myself, but I just haven't kept good track. I've definitely made mostly local food and eaten it. I just don't think it's been a conscious effort of making one local meal a day, writing it down and sharing it with the world. This really hit home this week when the organizer (Jennifer Maiser, who must be just a fantastic human being for running this whole show) of the Eat Local Challenge posted a blog with a list of the many bloggers participating in this movement. By alphabetic fate, yours truly heads up the Midwest Blogs.

The great thing was that the majority of bloggers had the same challenges I had after awhile, especially the ones that didn't live in the most bountiful of fall climates. A lot of folks had the same frustrations about making the extra effort to get local grains, dairy, etc. And of course a huge factor for most participants (surprise in this economy) was the cost of going that extra step. A CSA is one thing (and such a cost-effective way of getting produce), as is a farmer's market, but once you get into that meats, dairy, grains category it gets trickier.

I added the bulk of the participants' blogs to my Google Reader, which I suppose will be a great takeaway from this experience. In addition to common challenges, I've found a lot of great recipes and learned about eating locally in other regions. It's actually kind of fun to take a roadtrip off the beaten path of the blogosphere.

At any rate, to prove to you that I have certainly been eating locally, just not 100%, I wanted to share some photos from my kitchen over the last few weeks:

Locally baked bread; Sauce made with CSA tomatoes

From Cooking with Meghan

CSA Sauteed Delicata Squash over non-local grains

From Cooking with Meghan
CSA Stuffed Red Pepper (mostly local)

From Cooking with Meghan
Pan-Fried Farmers Market Egglplant with CSA Tomatoes (unbelievably tasty) (thanks Phil!)

From Cooking with Meghan

My attempt at another Beet Cake for Phil's Birthday. This did not turn out as well as the one in August and unfortunately I had to toss it. (But I used local beets!)
From Cooking with Meghan

Tonight's dinner -- Curried Cauliflower and Purple Potatoes (both CSA) and homemade Applesauce (from my apple picking trip). I even sweetened it with CSA honey! This meal was 99.8% local (butter unknown, spices accepted)
From Cooking with Meghan

And just because we need to giggle at food sometimes, here's a rather anatomically correct carrot I got in my CSA last month. The beauty of farm shares, you don't get the "pretty" food like at the supermarket. I'd rather have the weird food any day!

From Cooking with Meghan

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

thankful tuesdays: happy birthday

Happy birthday to my brother Kevin and my darling boyfriend Phil!

Also, a big thanks to:
  • The random guy who saw my cell phone fall out of my pocket in the intersection tonight and didn't run over it.
  • "Sally" at the Apple Store on Friday who gave me her "Genius Bar" appointment since she overheard me say I had to borrow a car to get out to the suburbs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

we've been experiencing technical difficulties

the infallible macbook was down for the count last week, but thanks to a trip to the apple store and the relinquishing of an appointment by nicest woman in the world, "sally," my computer finally starts up again.

regular blogging should resume this week.

thanks for your patience.

Monday, October 13, 2008

monday munchies: fall harvest

I'm testing out the idea of themes in my little blogsphere, we'll see if it works.

Pictures are still forthcoming, but here's an update on the culinary creations I've cooked up in the past few days.

- Red Bell Pepper stuffed with ground turkey, spinach, red onion, garlic, tomato and bleu cheese (all but garlic and turkey confirmed as locally produced). My own recipe, I cooked the turkey IN the pepper, instead of browning beforehand, so it took longer, but was twice as flavorful

- Broccoli, Leek, Potato and Spinach Soup, all local ingredients with the exception of the chicken broth

- Whole Wheat Bread from scratch. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and you know what? It was SUPER RIDICULOUSLY easy. I just followed a recipe from the good ol' Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

I still have a peck of apples to get through. Apple Crisp is definitely in my future. I also have a beautiful eggplant I scooped at the farmer's market on Saturday. I see that roasting in some olive oil with my leftover golden tomato. I also may be trying a recipe for braised cabbage. Still have more corn (probably will freeze this week's batch as well), lots of carrots (including golden), broccoli, potatoes, etc. Gotta love harvest season!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

reading for pleasure

A recent comment asked how on earth I have time to read for pleasure.

I'll admit, this hobby had all but dropped out of my life for awhile, with the exception of long plane rides.

However, in the past year it's resurfaced in full force. How?

Well, that's one of the absolute beauties of public transportation.

I have 20 minutes in the morning and 20 in the afternoon to dive into a book. I also find this a good time to listen to new music on my iPod.

What if you don't have someone else driving on your commute? I've heard audiobooks are good for long drives. Also, try blocking off the 15 minutes before you go to be at night to read at least one chapter of a book. Or set small goals like reading three chapters a week.

I found once I started reading again that I made time, as it's hard to put some books away.

Case in point, I just finished The Kite Runner. I stayed up late to finish it, because it was so emotionally gripping that I knew I couldn't read it on the bus as I found myself sobbing pretty much every 50 pages.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

financial plan of the week

Trying a new spending strategy this pay period. Tested it last one and it's coming together. Here's the scoop:

I budget out what I owe each paycheck to my standing bills, then any payments to friends or organizations that I need to get during that pay period, then I figure out the number that I have left for me for the next two weeks (i.e. $150). I then divide that number in four: week 1, weekend 1, week 2, weekend 2. I allow myself the quartered amount for that time period.

This time around in the experiment I am trying to then take the extra money not spent and store it away to start a Savings Account.

The only thing new going on my credit card is expenses that are out of the budget realm: wedding and milestone birthday gifts and necessary travel-related expenses.

required posting

I had full intentions of keeping up with my blog roll (nerdy, nerdy pun right there) from last week, but unfortunately time has slipped away from me. Work has been really insane this week, with my boss being on her second week of vacation, and I am exhausted at the end of each day. Luckily I had after work dinner plans with my dear friend George tonight, so I made sure to bust out on time and try to leave the day behind me as best that I could.

So what I have been up to with them there goals I laid out last week? Well, let's see:

Limit eating out to 1 lunch and 1 night per week, 1 night OR brunch per weekend -- this is one of the greatest areas where my spending starts spiraling. I'm determined to remedy that.

In the past week I've only gone out to eat once, tonight. I went to Phan's Garden at 19th & National for Vietnamese food. It was my first time trying that cuisine and it was delish! I had Pho Ga, which is basically thinly sliced chicken in broth with rice noodles and then you layer on peppers, bean sprouts and cilantro. It was mighty tasty, and the decor in the place was wild. The only negative was my fortune which said "You will soon find a new line of work." That sucks, because I certainly love my job. I hope it just referred to my boss returning and me going back to my daily duties.

Limit buying cocktails to 1 per weeknight, 3 per weekend night -- another spending death trap. I think this is a reasonable goal. Cocktails does mean beer and wine as well. And note that it basically refers to going out and buying them. If I have a couple glasses of wine at home I don't think there's any harm there.

I actually don't know the last time I hit up the bars. My drinking seems to have been confined to purely social occasions. Of course, once I can relax again next week I may finally crack open that vino.

Create viable eat local plan -- I'm starting with my October plan to do one meal a day. We'll see where it goes from there.

I'll admit, I've swayed off my October plan, mainly because I can't invest the time right now into tracking down grain options, nor the money into truly organic dairy. I am committed to using local produce in everything that I make (sorry pineapple and bananas) and that's going great. I had a fabulous meal of sauteed delicata squash and red onion over harvest grains that lasted days. I made a tomato sauce again. I made a fabulous salad for the debate party I attended Tuesday, which was a huge hit. That actually had all Wisconsin-grown ingredients except the walnuts and dressing (which was homemade however). Even with my mac & cheese dinner last night after the worst day ever, I steamed some local broccoli and it truly did make me feel better. Another thing I did with this goal in the past week was blanch and store my corn for winter. That was a cool accomplishment. I also nailed down my CSA committment for next year -- thanks Becky, planned a local Apple Picking outing for Saturday, and hit up the farmer's market last week and plan to early Saturday morning. I realized you can't jump headfirst into something like the Eat Local Challenge, but you can take baby steps and hope for a better 2009.

Post a blog (minimum) three days per week -- you'll be hearing a lot more from me

Clearly I've sucked at this. But I think if I do this tomorrow and Saturday I'll cover my arse for this week. Phew.

Obama campaign activity at least once per week through the election -- this is going to be tricky but I have to find/make the time. If a week goes by where I can't make it in, I'm going to make myself donate $5.

Realizing that watching the debates wasn't going to cut it, I stopped into the Obama office on Monday night and did data entry after work. I had a great time and met an amazing woman who had been personally encouraged by Desmond Tutu to move back to the US and work on the campaign. I overheard that last part, but how could I not be impressed?

Read three books per month -- a reasonable goal and motivation to pay off my library fees

Found out my fees weren't that terrible (gotta love the library!) and checked out a few books last week. Currently reading The Kite Runner at long last. Only about halfway through, but loving it so far and have cried about 17 times.

Attend one film at UWM Union Theatre a month -- they're free so this should be easy

Since I believe the Fleet Foxes concert is sold out, I am considering going to the Milwaukee Premier of My Blueberry Nights tomorrow, but it's at 9, I may be too sleepy.

There you have it. Yes, I do realize there's a lot of outstanding goals. But, I'm only human.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

dear republicans,

How can you say she "won"? Just because you don't fall flat on your face and/or smoke doesn't come out of your ears doesn't mean you win. I want a count of actual facts and statistics used by each candidate. I think Biden would "win" by about 954 to 3.


p.s. Unless you mean she was winnin' then maybe. But Biden was definitely winning.

eatlocalchallenge: day 2

Another eggy breakfast for me. However, my dinner was mainly local with the exception of the garlic and the grains. I sauteed local red onion and delicata squash in non-local butter, olive oil and garlic and then put it over a "harvest grains" mix from Trader Joe's. It was delish and I will be posting a photo soon.

My lunch tomorrow will be local. A stew of root veggies from the good ol' CSA.

I am going to try and make $10 get me something at the Farmer's Market on Saturday too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

it's fall

I enjoyed a brisk walk home tonight after stopping at the Milwaukee Public Library where I picked up this month's reads. I had a jacket, so was fine in the crisp weather. However, my apartment was freezing so I promptly closed most of my windows upon my return.

About 7 p.m. I heard all sorts of strange clickings and hissings.

Heat's on!

eatlocalchallenge: day 1

As you may recall, I pledged to eat one local meal per day for the next month as part of the nationwide Eat Local Challenge.

This project has many goals including reducing carbon emissions for food travel as well as supporting your local agricultural economy.

Unfortunately my first meal only supported the former goal. I used organic eggs from Lake Mills, WI but they do come from a large producer, so who knows how "organic" they are. I also used milk that's from a large dairy, but the local distributor is in Cedarburg, so at least it didn't travel farm.

Oh, in case you're curious I had scrambled eggs for my breakfast.

The good news was they were just the right amount of fluffy!

I anticipate having a nice local dinner tomorrow night though, thanks to my weekly CSA delivery!

it's okay, it's best of five

C'mon Brewers, you almost had it there in the 9th. You can do it tomorrow, just had the jitters. Milwaukee loves ya! Mwwwah!

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