Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Venice pictures

Venice is a beautiful city, and I look forward to incorporating my notes into draft two. Here below are my pictures put together into a two-minute video using Photostory 3. It's a great new program, very useable, that I recently was introduced to, and you can get it through a free download from Microsoft. While the video does include some pictures of the famous Piazza San Marco, which is indeed beautiful, most of these pictures focus in on neat little details (windows with Byzantine influence, narrow passageways that lead off into new streets, the pink glass of the street lamps, the beautiful colors, etc.) that make this place so very beautiful. You can just imagine it 300 years ago...Enjoy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

book review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has, quite simply, made me rethink the way I do food. Well written with a sense of down-to-earth good humor, the book describes her family's decision to live for one year eating as locally and sustainably as possible; what they couldn't grow themselves, they tried to buy from people they knew (through farmers' markets), preferably eating things grown within a 100-mile radius of their Virginian farm. Honey took the place of sugar. Exceptions were made for free-trade coffee, olive oil, and spices--I would add chocolate to that list--but for the most part it is a book about abundance rather than "what we gave up." Kingsolver writes lovingly and persuasively about eating in season, and she kindly explains what comes into season when, for those of us who didn't grow up near a farm and are still working that out. Fruits and vegetables that spend a week or more in transport from California and South America (cost of transportation paid for out of tax dollars) have less taste and fewer nutrients than the same items eaten shortly after they were picked--and that alone is worth the wait and work in-season to do a lot of canning and freezing. That, plus the fact that eating locally and organically is better for the long-term life of earth (in both sense of the word). And, buying local stimulates the economy of the area in which you live--less money to the middleman, more to the farmer.

But she says it a lot better than I do, and it doesn't sound so preachy.

It's January in Wisconsin, and we just finished my last jar of homemade tomato sauce, so there isn't that much I can do until things start growing again around here. But it does make me think about where things are from. I live in DairyLand, in the western part of the state. Why on earth should I buy milk from Illinois (one of two options in the grocery store)? Why would I buy Vermont cheese, much as I love it, or eggs from another state? I'm starting to pay attention to this stuff, item by item, thinking about the trip my food took to get to me.

At the winter farmers' market, once a month hosted by local churches, I'm getting to know some of the people who sell there, including one family who specializes in organic heirloom vegetables. (Heirlooms are different strains of the same plant, often that have been developed naturally over time to do well in various areas. Did you know that 4000 kinds of potatoes used to grow in Peru? Did you know there are more than 3 kinds of potato? I didn't.) I bought 5 different kinds of potatoes, including red ones and blue fingerlings, yummy carrots, dried tomatoes, local ground's been fun to taste test, fun to explore...

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Academia tends to be either full-on or mostly off, and it was nice to be varying degrees of "off" for the last month. I've read three books and several short stories in the past week for my new lit class, but I got to do it at home on the couch, so it felt more like fun that work. I'm about to head out of town, so I'll combine two posts into one:

I totalled under 1000 words in December, which is how much I try to do in a single sitting, and I haven't worked on my novel in January yet, though I did polish up a short story I want to send out. (Any recommendations for where to send literary fiction with a contemporary teen narrator?) There were finals and course planning, blah blah, but actually I'm happy to have a bit of a break so I can approach draft two with new eyes. And I'll definitely have new eyes when I return to it in Feb because I'M GOING TO VENICE!! I returned to campus to find I'd received the professional development grant I'd applied for, and I'M GOING TO VENICE on Tuesday to research my book. I can't wait to see how contemporary Venice matches up with the 1700s Venice of my researched imagination, but I'll write about that next week when I get back. I'm going with my Mom, which is a complete thrill. I can't wait to travel with her. I'll still spend half my time jotting notes, but it will be wonderful to have another person to compare impressions with, not to mention someone to share dinner and hotels with. It's supposed to be 40s and rainy this weekend, which will feel warm compared to Wisconsin January.

Teaching: digital stories
I had the immense pleasure of team-teaching a one-week, six-hour-a-day course on digital storytelling. It's the first time one of my main jobs as a teacher has been trying to convince my students to take a break--the work is that engrossing. Everyone worked hard and learned a lot, to great results. If you'd like to see what digital stories look like, check out the StoryCenter.

Coming soon: review of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle