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media fast: weeks 1 and 2

February 20, 2012

When I decided, on a bit of a whim, to give up television and movies for a while, I didn’t think that it would stick. I didn’t write about it, I didn’t set any goals, I didn’t have a reward system in place.

By all rights, it should have disintegrated within days. But it hasn’t. Oddly enough, it’s stuck around, and I just realized that today marks two weeks of completely shunning the television. So I decided I’d keep track of it on here, so I could look back and see how long I lasted.

In weeks one and two, I:

Wanted to watch television three times. Once, when I saw the case for The King’s Speech, once when I saw the trailer for David Tennant’s new movie The Decoy Bride, and once when I had a dream that reminded me of Inception. 

Instead of turning on the television, I:

1. Played Yahtzee with Little Bit and lost every single game. 

2. Listened to something new. Despite my stubborn belief that modern music was born and later died in Athens, Georgia, I’m managing to slowly move on post-R.E.M.

3. Took a completely different pleasure in reading. Books seem so much more consuming and entertaining with TV working its way out of my system.

4. Helped my mom bake for our church’s small group.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t always finish what I start. That life is busy and sometimes hard and television has been the opiate of Paige more than once. But there is no question that life without television is interesting and fun, and that I am a happier and more active person with the TV unplugged.

And I’m going to try to keep it that way.


Have you ever gone on a media fast, or wanted to? How long did it last?


hello, love

February 17, 2012

It’s not often that I think of being a part of an adoptive family. It’s been a part of who I am for so long, it has become my normal. Those of you who quietly have your children from your own bodies, in your own towns… you seem like the unique ones. To me, the words dossier and LID are as central to the arrival of a child as contractions and due dates are to you.

In fact, weeks can go by without me considering my family’s international build. But as news came of our newest addition’s imminent arrival, it’s been brought to the forefront again.

My siblings and I each claim a different continent as our birthplace. We don’t share the same birth mother, pigmentation, or even original language. We range from my porcelain paleness to Little Bit’s nut-brown hair and caramel skin to our newest boy’s pitch black eyes. 

 But when Little Bit gets sleepy and whispers my Russian nickname, when I sort through this middle American family’s stash of Chinese New Year decorations, when I hear his laughs and feel those beautiful hands in mine, when I look at a boy who will soon know me as Jie Jie, I know that I have never loved anything more in my life.

We’ve never needed DNA to connect us.

We have something so much better.


meatless monday: stecca

February 6, 2012

Usually I wouldn’t consider bread to be a sufficient MM offering, because…well, because man cannot live by bread alone. As much as I love bread, and love baking it, it’s always felt like a side dish. When I started out to make Stecca, an olive-oil brushed, salt-sprinkled loaf from Jim Lahey (of My Bread), I thought it was going to be an accompaniment to the dinner I had planned for Little Bit and me.

But by the time we had pressed tomatoes, garlic and olives into the loaves, I was beginning to have my doubts about its side-dish status. And once the kitchen began to smell of crisping bread and roasted garlic, I forgot all about my extended dinner plans.

When it emerged from the oven, my mental picture of ambrosia of the gods was officially altered. The two of us polished off half a loaf within five minutes.

4 thin loaves

3 cups bread flour (I used unbleached white)
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups cool (55-65 degrees F) water
additional flour for dusting
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt

for each loaf, you will need either:
10 cherry tomato halves, 10 thin slices of garlic, fresh thyme leaves or
10 large pitted olives or 
10 slightly crushed garlic cloves

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, table salt, sugar and yeast. Add the water, and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Covered the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough our of the bowl in one piece. Fold the dough over itself two or three times and gently shape it into a somewhat flattened ball. Brush the surface of the dough with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve on the surface.

Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, with a rack in the center. Oil a 13 x 8 x1 inch baking sheet.

Cut the dough into quarters. Gently stretch each piece evenly into a stick shape approximately the length of the pan. Place on the pan, leaving at least 1 inch between the loaves. For tomato stecca, push the halves evenly into the dough and top with a garlic slice a few thyme leaves. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. For olive stecca, push the olives evenly into the dough and brush with olive oil. No salt is needed because the olives are so salty. For garlic stecca, push garlic cloves evenly into the dough and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer stecca to a rack to cool thoroughly.

Note: the stecca may become slightly soggy in a few hours because of the salt on the surface. If that happens, reheat in a hot oven until crisp.

If you aren’t looking forward to working off a dinner of solid carbohydrates like I had to, you could be sensible and serve this with a big salad and a bowl of soup. But sometimes, with some special foods, sensible just isn’t the right way to go.



this week

February 5, 2012

Having more fun with TtV.

Attempting some make-ahead breakfasts from Macheesmo.

Listening to R.E.M.’s swan song album. I miss them.


life in black and white

February 4, 2012

Happy Saturday!


breaking chains

February 1, 2012

The first time I saw Sevenly was on Pinterest.

It seems many good things come to me that way.

Usually these good things come in the shape of new recipes, different books and interesting photography, because Pinterest, let’s face it, can a pretty self-absorbed place. Rarely does something on Pinterest inspire a larger outlook in me. But when I saw a certain shirt that was advertised to help sex trafficking survivors, I had to click.

And then I wondered where I had been all these years that I hadn’t heard of Sevenly. Their mission is as simple as it is beautiful: seven days of a limited-edition design, seven dollars from each purchase going directly to the charity of the week.

That week’s charity was the Somaly Mam foundation, and organization that helps victims of sex-trafficking in Cambodia escape a life that is largely thought to be unescapable. As I watched the video they provided, I started crying, and I couldn’t stop. I’ve always been passionate about victims of the sex trade, but the SM foundation showed me a side of it worse than anything I’d ever seen or read. Girls as young as three trapped in a life that is all but forgotten by the Western world. Survivors describing a life that is so far removed from my comfortable existence that I’d like to convince myself it doesn’t exist.

By the time the video came to a close, I was determined to buy a shirt. I never buy clothes online, because it’s just so hard to find clothes that fit correctly. But I knew that whether or not I could actually wear the shirt, I would be helping, and that was all that mattered. If it fit, that was great. If it didn’t, it was $22 I didn’t really need, but someone else really did.

But when my package came, any thoughts of financial martyrdom flew out the window. The packaging was bright and smile-worthy, the enclosed “World Change is How I Roll” sticker took up instant residence on my mirror (tucked in its corner, not stuck on, thank you very much), and the shirt… well, the shirt was wonderful. It was beautifully designed, fit perfectly, with a worn, relaxed feel that made it an instant favorite. My one complaint is that the v-neck is pretty low by my standards, so I had to wear something under it. However, the shirt that is available this week is a scoop-neck, and hopefully that trend will continue.

It seems almost ridiculous to even bring that up, as the shirt and the mission are beyond reproach. Because at the end of the day, I did what the t-shirt said. I broke a chain, not a heart. I got my mind off of food, off of photography, off of Pinterest, off of myself.

I think that is $22 very well-spent.



trying ttv

January 30, 2012

There’s nothing like a little distraction to keep you from doing what’s really important. Since the box of cameras arrived last week, I have become an expert at ignoring the various household tasks that could get in the way of my newfound love for vintage photography. I still haven’t bought film for the Polaroids, but even that hasn’t convinced me to face my work. I’ve still found a way to take pictures with the Kodak Duaflex and the TtV method.

TtV is better explained by folk more technically advanced than myself. But it basically comes down to two cameras, a digital with a macro setting or lens (I use my Canon 10D), and a vintage camera with a viewfinder on top (I’m using my Duaflex). You aim the vintage camera at whatever you want to photograph, and then take a picture of the viewfinder of the vintage camera with the digital camera. Once you’ve cropped the resulting photograph, you have a dreamy, scarred image that looks like it was taken with a vintage camera.

So far, so simple. But what really makes the process work (and separates the professionals from us architectural amateurs) is what comes between the two cameras. It’s commonly known as a contraption, and is basically any kind of semi-portable structure that blocks the light and subsequent reflections that could get in the way of a good image.

These contraptions come in all shapes and sizes, from precise, professional structures to haphazard nightmares that fall apart any time you touch them. The one I made from an old black sock and a Pringles can definitely falls into the second category.

It’s so unstable, it can only shoot from a solid surface, which has cut down on what I can photograph. I have a lot of work to do before taking it outside, where I really want to try TtV (partially because it is beautiful outside, partially because when I’m outside I don’t have to look at the laundry that hasn’t been folded because of these demmed cameras).

Not being the type to let that dissuade me from my mission of photographic procrastination, I still took several pictures that I like. The first was of my Chinese rooster statue. I was really surprised at how much detail the old lens managed to capture. It was beautiful straight of the camera, but I did edit a little. It started out with just a bit of sharpening, but when I tried to make it monochromatic, I loved the way it went with the texture of the photo (not to mention, when one is staring deep into Photoshop, one does not have to meet the baleful gaze of one’s unfolded sweaters).

With this in mind, I did several different monochromatic edits. I’ve narrowed my favorites to three images, but for the life of me can’t decide beyond that.

After I was satisfied with my rooster, I had to try one more picture (promising myself to get back to work once I was done, of course). I photographed an old bottle full of dried flowers that I picked around my parent’s pond last summer. And ignoring my promise to myself (you know what they say about Hell and intentions and all that rot), I promptly sat down to edit that picture too. It wasn’t as sharp as the rooster photo, but I thought it added a dreamy, nostalgic, almost Civil War feel to it.

While I liked the monochromatic edits for the rooster, I thought it took this picture to a whole new vintage level. Again, I could only narrow it down to three favorites.

And while I’d love to sit here a little longer, narrowing it down further, that laundry has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s not going anywhere on its own.

Off to fold,