Saturday, August 30, 2008

Food, glorious food!

We picked up our first of (at least) three monthly baskets today. We are hoping that it makes us enjoy cooking again, and helps us be more creative in the kitchen than we have become lately. Everything in the basket looks great, and we have already planned our weekly menu around all the great produce. Here is the complete list of what was in our basket:
  • Milk, 1/2 gallon (organic, low-fat)
  • Raw-milk Colby cheese
  • Bacon
  • Rice
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 bags of purple hull peas (like black eyed peas, but with a purple bit instead of black)
  • A bag of basil
  • A bag of spring salad mix
  • 3 smallish Japanese eggplants
  • 1 or 2 pint box of grapes
  • 1 or 2 pint box of peppers, several varieties
  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • Loaf multi-grain bread
  • Watermelon
  • 1 jar grape jelly
  • 1 jar honey
The basket is $60/month, which breaks down to $15/week. This is a little bit steep, perhaps, but I know that we would spend more than $15/week if we could go to the Austin/Sunset Valley farmer's market, or the Seattle University District Market. Now, most of what is in the basket will be gone at the end of this week, but not all of it. We are putting two of the bags of peas in the freezer for use at a later date. I might put the bacon away too, if I can resist its lure at breakfast time. The honey and jelly will last for quite a while. And we can supplement with the other CSA-type program I found, which is delivered every other week. Anything to make cooking (and eating) fun again!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah

Last night was the opening game of the football season here at UCA. We sort of knew it was happening, since several campus parking lots near us were closed all day, but apart from that didn't pay much attention...until the loud boom that we took to be a cannon went off. Being curious folks, we sauntered outside to see what a game here looks like.
It turned out that it wasn't a cannon - just fireworks that went off at the beginning of the game, anytime UCA scored, and at the end. The ones at the end were quite nice, but the others were just noise. They sounded like a cannon because they were being set off in the baseball field, which is even closer than the football field - a five minute walk away.
We weren't sure if we would be allowed top watch the game from outside the fence - at UT I am pretty sure you wouldn't be allowed to, if there was an empty end of the stadium. Here, however, we could have watched the entire game from outside. Yes, the angle towards the field and all the milling students (see top two pictures) meant that you missed anything close to the ground, but as demonstrated in the bottom picture, this didn't seem to bother the hoardes standing outside. I think most of the people in this picture are students, probably from the frats and sororities, since many of them had Greek t-shirts on. Anyway, it was a fun party atmosphere, and the students in the stands (top picture) were enthusiastic. The band was rather good - lots of complicated cheers and drumming. The adults - alumni? - were rather more subdued. I guess they needed some thunder sticks, like the students all had.

We didn't stay all that long, but do intend to actually attend a football game - unlike UT tickets are affordable, and we wouldn't have to worry about parking!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh my gosh!

I got a comment from Julie Zickefoose! I feel like I have had a brush with a celebrity - seriously! I love her blog - the writing is great, the pictures are awesome...and she commented on my last post!

Hoo. Now that I have calmed down a little bit, on with the regular business of this blog - talking about me . In our search for local, organic food here in Conway, we have had some great suggestions from various members of Benjamin's new department. As a result, while we don't have a really good farmer's market, we have found not one but two CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups. One provides subscribers with a mixed basket once a month, and another lets subscribers order from the products on hand and then delivers them every other week. I have signed us up for both, and we will be picking up our first basket this weekend. I am really excited about it. The basket comes from the same people who do the one organic market in Little Rock, but we don't have to spend an hour driving there and back (in our poor car with no A/C), and it is steady support. That is what these small, local groups need - our support. Critics argue that there is no way organic agriculture can support the entire population, and that such programs are elitist and out of reach for the poor among us. Yes, they are a bit more pricey than going to the grocery store, but the produce and other food tastes so much better for not having been trucked to Arkansas from California. And no, such small local movements cannot, as they are now, support large numbers of people - but with our support, the amount of land and food devoted to such causes can grow, and the number of people that can be fed can grow, and the prices can come down. No product or business can reach its maximum potential unless it has support. Do you think Whole Foods could have gotten so big without people using and buying its products? Of course not. Not that I want all these little local producers to get as big as Whole Foods - that isn't the point (and it ruins some of the joy of it), but I would like the farmers to be able to support themselves with their labors, and I would like the amount of land that is farmed in sustainable ways to increase. I realize that I am mostly preaching to the choir here, since y'all who read this tend to agree with me about such things, but it never hurts to repeat such sentiments for the few people who stumble across my blog and don't know such things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What do you think?

I am trying out a new template with my blog today. I kind of like it, but am a bit conflicted about having everything on the right. Let me know what you think about it. I'll leave it up for the rest of the week, unless I get bored with it or I hear some violent protests.

Addendum: I just realized why I like this template - Julie Zickefoose (see link on sidebar) uses it too...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cows, cows, cows

Cows are a hot topic on blogs (well, one anyway) and NPR. Here are two blog posts about miniature cows, and an NPR story about how cows use the Earth's magnetic field to figure out which direction to sleep. A scientists suggests that maybe we should put magnets on the heads of cows to see if it messes them up! Ha Ha Ha!
Miniature cows 1
Miniature cows 2
NPR Cows

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Good things about Conway #2

Petit Jean State Park. On Friday we went hiking, taking advantage of some pre-school year free time, and cooler weather. First we went on the Cedar Falls trail, which was supposed to take 2 hours, according to the sign at the trail head. It took us about 45 minutes, and the falls were, well, in an August lull. I guess we will have to go back in the spring after it has rained and there is more water.Since it was only about 10 AM, and we weren't hiked out yet, we decided to try the Seven Hollows trail - 4.5 miles, or 4 hours, according to the sign. It was a lovely trail, and we were almost the only people on it. It was a good day for hiking, for although it was pretty humid, the sun was hidden by clouds, and it never got particularly hot. We saw a coyote! I have never seen one of them in the woods before. The trail took us about 2.5 hours, including a lunch break, and if anyone comes to visit and wants to go hiking, we will probably take you there.

The state parks we have been to so far have been very well maintained and clean, especially impressive in light of the number of people in them. The signs are all like the one in the picture - carved and painted. Very nice.

I am off today to Bellevue for the next few days to attend the wedding of Bonny Anne and the Captain. See you when I get back.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bill Clinton gave me a watermelon

Saturday was former President Bill Clinton's birthday. In celebration, the Clinton Library had free admission, which we took advantage of, visiting and wandering around. (The archives are in a separate building, so I didn't get any peek at the actual papers or anything. Boo.) It was pretty nifty - lots of multimedia displays and such. Did you know that the president's chair in the cabinet room is two inches taller than everyone else's? And, in honor of his birthday, we were given a free Hope Watermelon. No, not named in honor of me - Hope AR, where Clinton was from, is apparently known for it's giant watermelons. It is tasty.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Conway Good Thing #1

In an attempt to remain positive about Conway (which is easier when it isn't 105 in the shade), I will try to post occasional good things I find here - sorry if it sounds too Martha-ish.

Today's good thing is the small, local, independent bookstore in town. The store was closed while the owners were on vacation when we first arrived in town, but they arrived back today, and we headed down to see what they had. Books, of course, to point out the obvious. And a cat, a friendly tortoiseshell cat - I think that every bookstore ought to have a resident cat, don't you? Local knowledge - that is one of the great things about going to a small local store in a small town - you can get first-hand knowledge, and someone who is willing to talk to you and give you advice you can trust. Also, we arrived about 10 minutes before they were supposed to close, but no-one chased us out or asked us to leave, and we stayed for about 40 minutes, talking and exploring before we finally made our purchase and headed home. You wouldn't get that at a big chain.

Tomorrow we intend to go for a hike or two at Petit Jean State Park. Julie and Jesse told us about it, and the waterfall that I hope to be able to cool off in during the afternoon, and it sounds like a good place for our first Arkansas hike. Saturday, if we aren't too tired from the Friday hiking, we want to get down to Little Rock to do some exploring. There is a farmer's market we need to find, and it is Bill Clinton's birthday, so admission to his museum/library is free. If we do make it to all these places, I will do my best to tell you about them and provide pictures

Pictures, as promised

OK, so I am a little late in getting any pictures up from Arkansas. Well, here are a few for you. The first is of our living room and kitchen area. I am standing near the front door, and the dining table is to my left, in front of two windows that look out onto the parking lot and a semi-empty grass field. The doorway visible in the background is the laundry room - my favorite room in the place! It would be yours too, if you had lived for the last 4 years without your own washer and drier! The bedrooms and bathrooms are through a hallway to the right, off screen.
This bookshelf is in the living room at the end of the couch. Creamsicle and Oliver take turns sitting on top of it. I have several other plants that would like that space, but I figure the cats need some options.
Here is Torreyson Library on the campus of UCA. It is a good example of the campus - lots of brick buildings, some big oak and locust trees, and some grass. Not bad, as far as campuses go. I think the school has done a good job of blending the older buildings in with the newer, and there aren't any egregious eyesores.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Settling in

We are pretty much settled in. All but one or two boxes are unpacked or stored away. Yesterday I got an Arkansas license plate and driver's license. Monday I baked bread and made yogurt. We are beginning to know our way around town and campus. The cats have, for the moment anyway, staked out their territory and routines. All that is left now is for Benjamin to start teaching - next week - and for me to find a job. I do have an interview today at the UCA library for an archives assistant position. I am really hoping that I get the job - it isn't the perfect job, but it is in archives, it would be a good foot in the door, and it is on campus so I could walk to work. That is a big plus in these days of high gas prices and in the light of our non-working car A/C.

I am taking a different view of moving this time than I have before; I am trying to view Conway as my home for the foreseeable future. When we moved to Texas in 2001, I knew we wouldn't be staying any longer than it took to finish graduate school, and I had a big attitude problem about Austin as well. I didn't want to allow myself to like it - it felt as if I was being disloyal to Bellevue and Seattle and Washington in general if I allowed myself to like somewhere so totally different. It is OK to like Scotland or England because they are, while culturally different, climatically similar, or New Zealand or Australia because they are exotic and different. But Texas, well, Texas is full of people like our esteemed leader, and other such oddities. How could I possibly like it? But when I opened my eyes and dropped the attitude problem, I discovered that (duh) liking somewhere doesn't mean not admitting its flaws, and doesn't mean that I can't still like where I came from. Still, as much as I grew to like Austin, I knew we would be leaving. Last year, when we moved to Brockport, I decided to treat it like a study abroad year or something, because again, we would be moving on in a relatively short period of time. I allowed myself to like things, and made myself explore in the spirit of a traveler in a new place. Now, we may indeed move on in 5 years, or 10, but we don't know, it isn't definite. I am trying to view this as the place where I will be living, whether I like it or not, so it would be better if I can find the good in it. This is taking some work, because I am not naturally gifted at seeing the positives in situations - my first inclination is usually to see the spot in the carpet or the litter in the grass, and not notice the nice furniture or the lovely flowers. This blog helps though, because I always try not to post about negative things, unless they are really stupid and annoying (like the beer and condoms). I am sure y'all would rather hear about the nice architecture on campus than about my dislike of brick buildings (which is, I must admit, very random and arbitrary). So, I will be putting up some pictures and trying to tell about the good - once I get around to taking the pictures off of my camera...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The cost of war, on a scale we can actually comprehend

Our friend Neil has a new blog - War or Car? - where he posts examples of what the USA could have bought for the cost of the war in Iraq. Check it out. For example, every household in America could have been bought a Prius.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good, honest sweat...

As opposed to the sweat you get when it is 100 degrees and humid. That is what we had today - we found that there is a community recreation center here in Conway that has racquetball courts. You have to reserve a court (I bet you could do this on a walk in basis much of the time) and pay $2 for an hour of play. The court we got was in great condition, there was a little box in the wall for your valuable, and lockers if you want to store a gym bag or whatnot. Great value for $2. We plan to get a gym pass for the UCA gym once the summer session is officially over and Benjamin's appointment officially begins, but they only have 2 courts, and we don't know what kind of shape they are in - nice to know we have an alternative if they aren't very good (or if they are really busy).

On a slight tangent, why isn't racquetball an Olympic sport? I'd watch...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Arkansas, keeping condoms safe from sex-mad teenagers

So, here is an observation that illustrates the madness that is evident here in Arkansas: the condoms at the grocery store are 1) almost $2 a box more than they were in Texas or New York, and 2) kept behind a locked cabinet (much as cigarettes are in other places, but not here). This seems to me to be the height of folly. No matter how good your abstinence program, teenagers (and lawfully allowed adults) will be having some sex. Why make it do difficult? What self-respecting teen is going to want to go up the pharmacy counter at the grocery store where his/her mother shops and say "Please sir, I'd like to buy some condoms." Not going to happen. Heck, I am a married adult, and I quail at that thought.

The other sign of madness are the liquor laws. As in Texas, the ability for retailers to sell alcohol is controlled on a county basis - Faulkner County, our county, is a so-called dry county. Thus, beer is not available in the grocery store, and there are no liquor stores of any kind (I haven't yet checked to see if I can at least get cooking wine at the store yet...). Restaurants, however, can get around this rule, simply by becoming what is called a supper club. Patrons then become members (for a one-time fee of $5), and can order just about anything their little hearts desire. What a big joke! There are plenty of beer cans to be seen in the not-so-nice neighborhoods. They don't stop you at the county border for an alcohol check. What it means is that local retailers don't get the money for the beverages, but restaurants do, and the locals who drink go to Little Rock to buy their booze. Nobody can seriously think these rule stop anyone from having "unlawful" sex, or "prohibited" booze. And yet, the laws still exist.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ar-kansas or Arkansaw?

So, I was reading a book from my mom's elementary school library while we were up there on vacation, and it said that for a while in the 1800s, the state name could be pronounced either way, and spelled either way. But, at some point, the legislature or some such governmental body decreed that it would be spelled Ar-kansas, but pronounced Arkan-saw. Thus confusing the populace into perpetuity. Welcome to your new state.

Anyway, we are here, safe and mostly sound. The apartment is set up (there will be pictures, when we have internet at home) and Benjamin has found his new office. We are living about 7 minutes walk away from said office, so that is good (especially since I have to come here to check my email for a few more days). It has been hot every day until today though - over 100. Urgh. Today is pretty nice though, because it rained this morning. And we ventured forth to Little Rock and found the Whole Foods market there, where we bought beer (our county is a dry county - I am sure this will come up again some time, when I explain supper clubs...) and bulk rice and other organic and frivolous items. We have been welcomed handsomly by two other newish professors and their wives, so we already know more people here than we did after several months in Brockport.

Funny name of the drive down here: Bucksnort, Tennessee.
Most irritating feature of drive down here: lack of pet acceptance in motels in Louisville, Kentucky.

I'll be back soon - internet supposed to be up and functioning on Saturday...