Art of the Blog

The class blog of the Art of the Blog, Loft Literary Center, Spring 2010

Grayce’s New Blog

Posted by Grayce on April 10, 2010

Well folks,

I finally got a blog up and running. I hope you find it interesting.

http://graycesgarden.wordpress.com/

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What I’ve Learned

Posted by cchoaglund on March 23, 2010

A few years ago I was resistant to the idea of “going back to school”.  I’m not sure why really, maybe because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.

 This year I decided I was going to make some changes.  I signed up for a number of classes, from digital photography to book making to blogging.  I’ve shared my struggles in class with both my job and the economy. I’ve written and talked about how writing has been cathartic during this stressful year.

But I wanted to take a moment to say how beneficial the class has been too.  I think I became a better writer, I found a sense of clarity.  Before I sort of stalled when it came to story ideas. But it’s sort of freeing knowing now that if I can’t find 700 words to write, it’s ok to write 200, or 100, or even just one. Learning about the Blogosphere and Google-love was enlightening.  The possibilities excite me, the realities scare the hell out of me.  But I feel like I accomplished something else too.

You see my world of late has been pretty small.  I was stuck in an endless cycle of work, sleep, eat, housework, errands and TV.  Nothing ever changed.  And for some reason, the smaller my world became, the more resistant to change I became.

But I realize now that I have the ability and the time to carve out a day or two a week to expand my mind; to meet knew people and grow my world.  I can work and take classes and keep a busy schedule like I did when I was young. And it doesn’t wear me out – it energizes me. It makes me feel like anything is possible again.

I may not be ready to finish my degree just yet, but I am ready to get out there again. I am ready to learn and try new things and shake things up – and that has been the best lesson of all…

It was a pleasure meeting all of you and sharing this time together.  I look forward to reading your blogs, hopefully we will cross paths again.

Chris

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On Communication

Posted by Grayce on March 23, 2010

Journal Entry #2, March 15th

Communication is a thing that I used to consider myself fairly good at. From my early childhood I was always a talker and I guess I still am. It’s not just speaking with people that I like, its the exciting and invigorating interplay that takes place in a good conversation.

I always knew I was a person who enjoyed this aspect of comunication, but I didn’t know how much until I spent six months in Sweden. I could speak Swedish pretty well and tried to use it as much as I could for the practice, but I was no where near possessing the skills of a native speaker. Most of the Swedes I knew could speak English very well, but they did not have the ease of speaking like it was their mother tongue.

This didn’t prove to be a problem if I was asking directions or engaging in small talk, but when it came to sharing emotions or talking sincerely about anything it was very difficult. It wasn’t for a couple of months before I was able to put my finger on what was missing. About that time I had dinner with a fellow American foreign exchange student and during that evening I reveled in the intricacies of our conversation. It was like dancing in a way. She would lead with a question or comment and then with the proper que I would step in with a response. For the first time in months there were no awkward pauses or incorrect inflections. Our conversation was perfectly timed and lovely.

It wasn’t until that evening that I realized how much tact and skill that goes into communicating and how comfortable I had always been at it. When I was in a situation where I either me or my speaking partner was at a disadvantage the conversation just wouldn’t be the same.

It has now been three years since I had this realization and my mind has been opened to the difficulties that this can bring to people. However, since then I have also seen that knowing how best to say a thing and when has been dwarfed by issues like knowing what I feel if and it is ever worth trying to communicate it.

There is so much more to communication than the mere conversation and whether or not I will ever be good at it is yet to be determined.

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Posted by Grayce on March 21, 2010

Hi all,

I just spent the last week in Boulder Colorado and now I’m back and enjoying the lovely day. While I was on vacation I wrote several “posts” in my journal, but didn’t have easy access to a computer so I am just now putting them on our blog.

A Hike to the Hike

Boulder Colorado, March 16th 2010, the sun is shining bright and the 60-65 degree air is warm but still holds the crisp freshness of spring. Its the first day of my six-day spring vacation. It won’t be extravigant or luxurious, but it is a break from the daily grind which is just what I need.

Breakfast composed of iced coffee and left-over pizza and a walk to the grocery store to stock the hostle fridge with groceries for the week to come is all I have on the agenda. With my day’s work done my boyfriend and I are now ready for adventure.

We confer on what to do next. “Why not a hike?” we say “baseline road is supposed to bring us to a nice spot.”

As we walk out the door we meet Tim, the California native who works and lives at the hostle and who had checked us in the night before. “Where you guys headed?” he asks,
“We’re going to hike at Chattaqua National Park.”
“You got a car?”
“No.”
“A bit of a hike to the hike then. Good Luck”

Two hours, two sunburns and a tired butt latter we collapse on our bed and conclude that Colorado just kicked our ass.

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Posted by moff0025 on March 16, 2010

it is that time of year again.  we walk around the hallways, holding out breath, wondering what the next couple of months might bring.  should i start stashing money away – something we are all thinking.  just in case.

what is happening to education? students no longer have gym everyday, and music and art have almost vanished.  with less people and more children in the class, there seems to be more expectations.

why aren’t the parents mad?  why aren’t parents at school board meetings demanding changes?  they are the only people who can ignite the change.  the people working in the field don’t have much of a voice.  well, only if things look pretty.

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What if…

Posted by wfrytak on March 15, 2010

Henry David Thoreau said that “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” What if Americans had the opportunity to pursue their passions or “follow their bliss?” Would we be so anxious, stressed out or perhaps so unhealthy? Would community and familial bonds strengthen too? What if our government removed a major road block for the average person’s pursuit of his/her professional dreams? Ponder the possibilities….

Later this week, will our legislators do the right thing and take the first baby steps towards reversing existing public policy? I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But, pretty please with sugar on top can health care coverage someday soon not be tied to a job! 

Cut to a café overlooking the Mediterranean. The glint of the sun sparkles like glittering diamonds against the azure blue sea. The uplifting scent of citrus wafts throughout the midday air. A calm and serene mood permeates throughout the tables, broken only by gentle laughter, the low murmur of conversation and the tinkle of toasting glass ware. An American blond woman wearing Ray Ban aviators practices her Italian with her native table companions. They gently and lovingly tease her about her atrocious American accent. But, she feels no sense of embarrassment, for she is having the time of her life! She regularly visits Italy and many other countries on business. She is a food ambassador. She uses food to bridge national, cultural, social, and religious divides. She advocates healthy food relationships that sustain human and environmental health.

The woman took a professional jump off a cliff. She quit her job, developed a game plan for reaching her goals, and took the necessary steps to make it happen. However, like any smart girl she had a safety net. She had money in the bank and health care coverage in case she got sick. Who is this lucky lady? It’s me!!!!

Cut back to reality. Savings safety net: check! Affordable health care coverage without job: you’ve got to be kidding!  Current roadblock still in place, must find detour.  Anyone got any suggestions?

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Do it for the Chickens

Posted by cchoaglund on March 13, 2010

I want to discuss the movement of Organic vs. Conventionally produced products.  I have become a naturalist, well about 80% natural anyway, and every day I learn more and more about just how bad conventionally produced products are. 

 

Today, my case in point is about eggs.  I buy organic eggs because I don’t believe that chickens should be fed hormones.  I suffer with a major hormonal imbalance and I figure that I just don’t need anything else messing me up.  But I guess I really didn’t realize the real difference in organic eggs vs. conventional eggs.

Did you know that organic eggs have 22% more Omega 3’s in them then conventional eggs?   That is a staggering difference. And if that isn’t worth the extra $1.50, then read on.

Conventional chickens are kept in tiny cages.  Most cages are less then 2 sq ft and they share that cage with up to 9 other chickens.  There is not enough room for them to stretch and spread their wings.  The cage conditions are dirty, crowded and unhealthy to say the least. Most of them live less then 2 years.  They are force-fed hormone-laden corn feed, which by the way, is not what a chicken would actually eat if they had the choice.  Their beaks are cut off.  They are never allowed to roam freely and hunt and peck as a chicken does, they never see the light of day.  Then, when they have served their egg-bearing purpose they are slaughtered and the meat is used to feed us. And that’s the meat you get in 80% of the restaurants and grocers in the country. There are dozens of other reasons not to buy conventional chicken and eggs that you can read here, but for me, it’s too gross to post.

Organic chickens by contrast, especially free-range chickens, are allowed to roam.  They get exercise, fresh air and sunlight.  They can eat worms and bugs, seeds and greens – anything their little chicken heart desires. And in being able to live the life of a normal chicken they develop much more Omega 3’s, protein, vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients.  They develop muscle and strong bones and lead happy chicken lives.

I admit, I have sort of buried my head over the years when it came to “industrial farming”  I know in the back of my head how truly disgusting the practices are.  But because I like protein, I have not completely acknowledged that disturbing fact.  The truth is, I just don’t want to know.  But in my quest for better health I have to look at the whole food process. And since chicken is a mainstay in my diet, I need to know the realities.

If the chickens are being fed all that junk and we eat their eggs and meat then it stands to reason we are also being fed all that junk.  That just makes me sick.  No wonder we have so many health issues in our country.

 The old saying,  “you are what you eat” really applies.  If you want to ingest chemicals, eat today’s conventional produce, meat and dairy.  If not, buy organic.  And if you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for the chickens, they have no choice.

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Think Globally, Blog Personally

Posted by The Dependent Clause on March 9, 2010

We spent a lot of time tonight talking about current events (the state of the economy, politics, etc.) and what our blogs might bring to that discussion. The key, it seems, is to make a connection between the macro (the “big picture” ideas like war, human rights, economics, etc.) and the micro (your career, family, community). On a blog, the way it works is usually like this: You write about a specific thing that is happening in your life and link it to something happening nationally or globally. The health care debate provides an obvious example of this, since everyone has some relationship to health care, even if it’s a complete absence thereof.

Blogging provides a modern-day spin on the old “Think globally, act locally” bumper sticker: Think globally, blog personally. Blog about your family, your job, your marriage, etc., and consider how something happening “out there” in the world has trickled down into that realm. This is why I get so frustrated with people (usually younger people) who say they don’t pay any attention to politics because it doesn’t effect them. Look around you! Of course it does! It affects you in ways you don’t see until you look for them.

So, consider how you might shape a blog post that makes that micro-macro connection. It will most likely involve linking to, and reacting to, a piece of writing or media on the Internet with which you strongly agree or disagree. Post whatever you come with to this blog. And, find one or two blogs that, in your opinion, do this particularly well.

See you next week!

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Decanter

Posted by moff0025 on March 9, 2010

In the middle of January,

I took a trip to San Francisco

with 2 friends.

We met my cousin

for dinner at a hip seafood place.

My midwest appearance didn’t seem hip enough to be there.

My cousin brought a bottle of wine

for the table to share with dinner.

We chatted with the server about the bottle,

and he asked “would you like a decanter?”

“No,” my cousin replied.

Then we asked to place our order.

He said, “would you like a decanter?”

Again, we said no.

The bottle was open, so it was already getting

the oxygen it needed to placed

into our bellies for the evening.

But that didn’t stop him.

Again, and again,

and again,

he asked “would you like a decanter?”

We thought, we either have a really

good bottle of wine

or we look like we have no

idea what we are doing!

Why was this so important to the server?

So, the decanter

became the joke of the weekend.

I soon

will be sending

my cousin a thank you gift:

A Decanter…

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Baking Breakthrough

Posted by Grayce on March 8, 2010

I have been conducting a series of bread baking experiments in order to find a go-to bread recipe that I really like. I want this bread to have good flavor, a chewy and attractive crust, moist texture, and to be healthy.

I have tried several different recipes and techniques over the span of three years and as many homebakers have most likely discovered before me, the more I learn the more there is to learn.

I started baking bread in college and between me an a fellow housemate we developed a recipe that used no oil, no refined sugar, and nearly all whole wheat flour. Unfortunately it tasted about as good as it sounds.

As my interest in bread baking grew I tried different recipes and finally settled on a recipe of my mother’s that uses cooked oats in it. It wasn’t too dense or too light and it had a nice sweet flavor from the oats.

As I read more about bread baking I found a baking stone was always recommended if you wanted artisan style breads. So I looked into it and found that the sort of baking stone I wanted was about $50. Instead I found a tile store that carried unfinished terricotta tiles and I was able to by six of them for $2 and they have been working well. By placing my loaves directly on the tiles, heating my oven to a higher temperature, 450 degrees instead of 350, and tossing a cup of cold water into the oven before I closed the door I was able to create a wonderful artisan crust with a chewy texture and a carmelized flavor.

However, even with all of these new discoveries I was still unsatisfied with the texture of the bread itself. It was really only at its best when it came right out of the oven, once it was a day old it was dry and crumbly and wasn’t very good for anything except toast.

I was just beginning to think that if I wanted a homemade, hearty bread that was what I would have to expect when another breakthough was made. The weekend before last I attended a wedding and happened to sit next to a baker from Great Harvest Bread Company in Duluth. He gave me two tips for baking whole wheat breads in a standard oven that have made all the difference.

First, make half of your dough ahead of time, knead it as usual and let it rise till double two times, and then punch it down and refrigerate it for at least one day. Then when it is time to make your bread cut the refrigerated dough into small pieces and stir it into the dry ingredients of your recipe. Add the rest of the ingredients to finish making the dough and then knead, rise and bake as usual. Secondly when you bake white bread it is done when it has reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees, but whole wheat bread is done at 180 degrees so by baking it for a shorter time it will not be so dry.

So far I have only used these two tips for my mother’s recipe, but I have found them to make a huge difference and hope to experiment with other recipes.

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