Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Idea Worth Sharing: Congressional Reform Act of 2013

I regularly receive Conservative-based email threads from my Father and Grandpa. I cannot always say that I agree with everything I receive, but nonetheless give them a fair consideration. This is a viable consideration and should seriously be considered. Cutting salaries and benefits to congressional elites will make a small dent by national debt and GDP standards, but holding those people who write the policies liable for what they pass will certainly make them consider the voice of the people. Ultimately, to pass such a policy, it will take strong public, judicial and executive branch initiatives.
Mount Washington- Presidential Range

*Congressional Reform Act of 2013

  1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.

Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vegan Power Pancakes

 These pancakes are sweet, spicy and will keep you full until lunch!  If you don’t have all of the spices in this recipe just use what you have, don’t worry they will still taste good.  And feel free to get creative with the add-ins, my favorites are walnut pieces and dried dates but really the base recipe is flexible, you can put bananas, strawberries, really whatever you want in to it.  Have fun and enjoy!

1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 ¼ c soymilk or almond milk
2 tbsp grape seed oil or vegetable oil
2 tbsp nuts (I like almond slices or walnut pieces)
2 tbsp dried fruit i.e. dates, crasins or raisins

1.     Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl
2.     Add in the soymilk and oil.  Watch out because the batter will rise quickly due to all of the baking soda!
3.     Put some oil in a skillet (again I like to use the grape seed oil, but veggie oil or a butter substitute will work just fine) and let heat up
4.     Spoon pancake batter on to skillet, and flip when you can see the edges of the pancake begin to brown

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fighting the Obesity Epidemic: Attacking the Symptom, Not the Problem

I recently read the Atlantic’s current cover article, “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.”  The author, David H. Freedman, makes some truly excellent points, arguing that many expensive, unprocessed “health foods” actually contain just as much sugar and fat as processed foods. Freedman discusses the classed nature of obesity in America, and how the working class and poor have significantly higher rates of obesity.   He identifies the fast food industry’s growing practice of swapping out less healthy ingredients for healthier ones as the most promising solution to curbing the obesity epidemic in America. Freedman continues to argue that “healthy food” does not appeal to the working poor, citing the McDonalds McLean Deluxe, the company’s worst product flop of all time.  He also describes the one bodega in East LA selling produce as empty compared to the other junk food laden bodegas. 

Though I agree with many of his points, I was bothered by a seemingly paternalistic message in the article, that poor people don’t want healthy food. I found myself wondering as I read this article, why is it that people know what is good for them but choose to eat something that is bad for them anyways?  We all know we are supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables.  And history has taught us that concluding “x group of people are just lazy and don’t care about their health” is a discriminatory and reductionist argument.  I think it’s time to look at the deeper cause.

The reality is that food is not simply fuel, and skyrocketing obesity rates among the poor are not just about food availability.  Food has an incredible amount of personal and cultural significance.  Food is a comfort, a ritual, a bonding experience or a moment of peaceful solitude.  We cannot discount the emotional, psychological relationship that humans have with food. If you are making minimum wage, struggling to pay for groceries, living expenses, and health care, or worse are unable to find a job at all, you will likely feel huge amounts of stress.  It’s not surprising that when we fell stress we tend to reach for the easily available and inexpensive “comfort foods” that light up the reward centers in our brains, releasing the “feel good” chemicals dopamine and endorphins.  Food is the least expensive and most readily available coping tool for stress, and it takes time and money to reach for healthier alternatives like exercise and hobbies that lead to personal fulfillment.  It’s not about people deciding what is “healthy” to eat.  Everybody knows what they should eat, and beating them over the head with shame and statistics won’t change anything.  The key to ending the obesity epidemic is not more Whole Foods Markets or a better McDonalds.  It’s ending the cycle of poverty and stress through social reform.  The most promising solution to the ending the obesity epidemic is a minimum wage you can live on, healthcare that won’t leave you bankrupt, and upward mobility through to a decent education. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

(Louie) Dog Shame- Terrified of Chewing Gum


Hi My name is Louie, I am a cattle dog/border collie/gremlin mix who loves to explore the world!   Unfortunately this week I have discovered a new noise, and I find it absolutely terrifying. 
It all started when the big fast human had something in his mouth.  It looked like he was eating my favorite thing, food, but then out of nowhere I heard it.  Pop!  I looked around, tail between my legs, ears down.  What was that?  Then I heard it again.  Pop!  This time from the female human.
I quickly looked around and fled the danger.  It turns out that I really don’t like the sound of chewing gum snapping, or any kind of mouth clicking.  For some reason it seems not to bother the humans.
Fortunately I have found several awesome places to hide from this scary noise.  One is in the back seat of the car as far into the foot well as I can go. 

Another is behind the bar in the kitchen where no one can see me from the couch.  
The other is in the closet with all of my mom’s shoes, where I blend in pretty well.  I really like to do this when I am all wet, getting all of her shoes wet too.
Hopefully I never hear the scary noise again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Chips

Everybody loves foods that are crunchy and salty.  Crackers, potato chips, pretzels.  Even better if it’s a little bit sweet too.  Like kettle corn.  Or the pretzel m&ms.  But generally, when I think of salty crunchy foods, I think mainly of foods like chips that really aren’t that great for you, are way too easy to overeat (I don’t know about you, but I could easily take down the share size bag of BBQ kettle chips) and lacking in nutritional value.  Sweet potato chips are tasty, nutritious, and if you cut the slices small enough, you feel like you're getting a ton of chips and only eating one potato. It's an easy way to have your cake and eat it too.  Or, I guess, have your chips and eat them too.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Cut up a sweet potato into thin slices.  If it’s a big potato, I recommend cutting the slices in half.  The more slices you get out of a potato= faster cooking and more pieces to eat!
3. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, then pour about 1- 
2 tbsp olive oil over the potatoes.
4. Mix the oil into the potatoes.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands.
5. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes
6. Bake potatoes 15 minutes and then start checking on them.  Smaller, thinner slices will cook first.  The potatoes are cooked and ready to eat if you can stick a fork in them and they feel soft.  If you want them crispier, you can leave them in the oven for longer. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Get Your Girlfriend in to Kayaking

It's no secret that kayaking is a male dominated sport, and I have definitely had many guy friends ask me if I knew any single girls who paddled, or for tips on how to get their girlfriend interested in the sport.  I think men and women tend to learn and experience kayaking in very different ways.  Here are a few tips from a girl who spends a good amount of time paddling with my boyfriend, Zach (who happens to be way better than me) and has stuck with the sport for about six years now.  Hope it helps! (Photo: Me, Johanna and Mallie and the Nolichucky, Credit: Phil Ellis)

1.     Make it Fun
Kayaking is a lot of things.  Brown, gnar, epic, stout.  But most importantly, kayaking should be fun.  The more you manage to make it fun, the more likely she is to enjoy it.  Have a “date night” where you take a picnic, some beer and a kayak to the lake just to paddle around, get comfortable flipping/getting out of the boat, etc.  Paddle something low stress with mutual friends.  Positive association has long been a staple of advertising psychology.  If you want to get a person interested in something, make it a positive experience.

Me at the Kennebec my first year paddling in my Jackson Kayak Fun, with my signature look of sheer terror.  Photo: Rapid Shooters Maine

2.     Take It Slow
The Upper Green isn’t that hard right?  I mean you’ve run the gnarrows like 800 times and the upper only has like two easy rapids. She’ll be fine.  But then she get’s recired at Wanda’s hole, swims four times, and has to carry that stupid heavy boat forever to the parking lot and ends up wondering why anyone even likes this stupid sport.  I know a lot of women who tried paddling and had traumatic experiences early on that turned them off to paddling.  On top of that, most of us want to make the person we’re with happy, so that adds another level of pressure.  For any beginner kayaker, the more comfortable you feel with basics, i.e. eddies, ferries, rolling, strokes, the more confident you will feel navigating a river and handling the inevitable difficult situations that are inherent to kayaking.

 3. Encourage Her to Have Other Paddling Friends
It’s raining and the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong is running.  Zach is super pumped.  He loves the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong.  It’s his favorite river!  I have about as much interest in running the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong as I do in pulling out my own teeth.  Luckily, I have my own group of paddling friends, and we are all going to Fairy Boof Land.  Encourage your girlfriend to have her own paddling friends.  Not only will you get to go to the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong, but having your own crew gets you paddling with people of all levels, which can be a nice change from always paddling with someone way better than you. (Photo: Hanging out at the Ocoee.  Credit: Phil Ellis)

4.     Use Your Words
So your girlfriend just swam out of her kayak, she’s upset, maybe even crying, and you have no idea what to do.  So you decide to do what you would for any of your bros (though they would definitely not be crying), keep your mouth shut and give her some space.  This is NOT a good idea.  Let me repeat: NOT a good idea.  Because while you are silently giving her space, this is what she is thinking, “OMG why isn’t he saying anything?  He’s mad.  I’d bet he’s mad.  He probably doesn’t want to kayak with me anymore.  I hate this sport.  Why isn’t he saying anything?”  So let me save you some drama.  Go over, give her a hug, tell her that everything is ok, and continue to say nice things while you help her bail out her boat.  For most women, this shows caring and acceptance despite a “failure” of swimming, and will help her move on and not dwell on it.  This also goes the other way.   Giving compliments.  The other day Zach told me I looked really solid, and it inspired me to go run Section 4 at 2.4’, the highest I’ve ever run it.   A few positive words can go a long way.

5. Listen and Communicate
So you think your girlfriend is totally ready to run the Big Hole Slide Drop, but even though you told her like six times she’d be totally fine she’s still going to walk it.  What gives?  And earlier, she totally freaked out at you because you peeled out of an eddy and didn’t wait for her.  Women.  They’re all drama.  The reality is that following someone down a new run requires a huge amount of trust.  As with any boating partner (and probably any sort of relationship period), it’s important to communicate what you need, listen to the other person, and listen to each other.  If she doesn’t want to run something, don’t push her.  If she wants you to wait, wait.  When I run something new with Zach, I tell him that I want to follow him pretty closely through the big rapids, if I feel overwhelmed I signal to eddy out, and if I don’t want to run something I don’t run it.  Talking about all of this beforehand can take some of the stress out of the intimidating experience of paddling, not to mention prevent a fight or two.   (Photo: Zach and I after a sunny day on the Horsepasture, Credit: Andy Perkel)

Jackson Kayak
This Post Published There

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ideals vs. Reals in the Reality Media World


 I think a lot of young people like to consider themselves enlightened and progressive citizens, conscientious and socially liberal people whose values are uninfluenced by desire for fame, money and status.  As such a young person, here are some things that I like to tell myself I believe in: feminism, environmentalism, and conscious consumerism.  That money does not make you happy, love and relationships do.  So by holding these values I should be opposed to media that encourages doing anything for a big paycheck, ridiculous spending, wasting my time idolizing a celebrity culture and wanting to buy Gucci and drive a Benz just because the people on TV do, right?

But despite my idealistic, surface level disdain for reality TV and a materialistic celebrity obsessed culture, I have one major confession to make.  I secretly love it.  I have bought more grocery store tabloids than I care to admit, have the first two seasons of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on my laptop, and every time I visit my younger sister in we fire up the TiVo watch at least 3 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or The Bachelorette.  Sure, I have my excuses.  It’s essentially free anthropology and psychology field studies, that while exaggerated still represent cultural values.  Whatever, its garbage, but sometimes I just need to turn my brain off.  It’s a socially important female bonding ritual, providing a relaxed environment and subject material we all can relate to(OMG can you believe she pulled Sean out of her date with Tamara? I can’t believe she picked that dress.  Wait, who’s KK’s baby daddy? Kanye?).

Though I am often satisfied with my justifications for watching and being entertained by reality TV shows and tabloid magazines, sometimes it doesn’t sit right.  I have found that it’s pretty difficult to watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and not feel slightly jealous of Camille’s ski house in Beaver Creek or Kyle’s wardrobe.  And I wonder about my real intentions behind watching the Bachelorette.  Am just trying to make myself feel better by judging someone else as “crazy”?.  Recently I have noticed that a lot of the Housewives series focus on women fighting like schoolgirls.  Is this show’s representation of women something I want to boost ratings for? But on the flip side of that, I don’t want to take myself too seriously.  Nobody likes the person that can’t seem to relax and lectures everyone about feminism during a TV show.  And I don’t think using the Bachelorette or Project Runway, as an excuse to get together with your girlfriends is a bad thing; in fact, I think time spent with friends is extremely important to our well being and happiness.

At the end of the day, we all have to be honest with ourselves and draw our own moral lines and look at our intentions. I’ve stopped watching Housewives because I don’t want to support a show that makes women look mean and petty.  But I probably won’t give “Say Yes to the Dress” with my sisters up anytime soon because doesn’t make me want drop nine grand on a wedding dress, and for me it’s more about sibling bonding time than the show’s content.  And for all you other recovering Housewifers, check out “The Real Housewives of Disney,” featuring Kristen Wiig as an alcoholic Cinderella on SNL.  It’s hilarious, and will fill your need for housewives drama and become your hands down favorite cast. 

Photo Credits:
Real House Wives of Beverly Hills -cinehotflix.com
KK's Wedding -usmagazine.com
Bachelor -abc.com
Real House Wives of Disney -justjared.com

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Corn Tortillas

Grocery Store Corn Tortillas vs. Homemade Corn Tortillas

Grocery Store Tortilla Ingredients:  Corn (Ground corn treated with Calcium hydroxide and Water), Water, Sodium propionate, Propionic acid, Sodium hydroxide, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Gum blend, Sorbic acid, Fumaric acid, Dextrose.
May contain FD&C Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40.

While the use of preservatives in food has been OK’ed by the FDA, there are a few that are bothersome. Sodium Hydroxide is the chemical name for lye while calcium hydroxide is the chemical name for slake lime.  Dextrose is added sugar, there is some evidence that Methylparaben mimics estrogen and can cause endocrine disruption, and artificial colorings have been linked to hyperactivity in children and cancer in lab rats.  Also, these preservatives are generally tested in isolation (one at a time) over a relatively short period of time, a few weeks to a few months.  What happens with repeated long-term consumption combined with several other preservatives is anyone’s guess.
Furthermore, another area to consider is the environmental safety of using these preservatives en masse.  Calcium hydroxide (slake lime), propionic acid, sodium hydroxide (lye) and sodium hydroxide are all highly caustic materials that can cause chemical burns and are actually poisonous in large quantities. 

Homemade Tortilla Ingredients: Maseca Flour, salt, water   

1.     Combine maseca, salt and water per instructions on the back of the flour bag.
2.     Get two pieces of saran wrap (or a plastic bag) and a pie plate, a book, or really anything flat and with some weight to it.
3.     Put a small ball of masa flour in between the two pieces of saran wrap and squish it into a tortilla.
4.     Put the tortilla in a frying pan with some olive oil and cook for a few minutes on each side until it starts to brown.

Enjoy delicious, warm, home-made corn tortillas.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Cook Tempeh

So thanks to Health Food stores and Thai restaurants, we all know what tofu is.   Most people think that when you are eating vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to eat a meatless meal, it’s pretty much your only plant protein option.  Fortunately there is another soy protein source out there that is delicious, has a satisfying texture, and is easy to cook…..tempeh!
I have to admit, my introduction to tempeh was not a favorable one.   They would occasionally serve it in my college’s dining hall, and usually it was in giant chunks, pretty much raw and covered in some overly sweet Teriyaki sauce.  When we found it at Ingles and Zach wanted to buy it because it was on sale, I initially demurred. 
“It’s not that great,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s only $2.89, and the normal price is $3.78.  And it’s way cheaper than tofu.”
He had a point.  For $2.89 and almost a dollar savings with the Ingles Advantage, I figured I could suck it up and try it again. 
Fortunately the pack of tempeh came with directions on the back, and Zach was cooking with me (I grudgingly admit that he is a better cook than I am).  It actually turned out to be pretty good, and is now one of my favorite veggie protein sources.  I think it’s easier to cook than tofu, and I like that it has more texture than tofu does.  So here’s how to cook it:

1.     Open up the package and cut the tempeh into small cubes, maybe about 1 inch cubes.  Since I really like eating, I like to cut it in to small pieces because it feels like I get more that way.
2.     Put some olive oil in a skillet, turn on to medium high heat and wait about 1-2 minutes for the oil to heat up.
3.     Put the tempeh in the skillet, along with a spoonful of minced garlic and a tablespoon or two of soy sauce. 
4.     Let the tempeh sauté in the pan until it starts to brown

This is great to eat on it’s own, or to add as a protein to pasta dishes, tacos or our personal favorite, Pad Thai.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Thoughts on American Government Scandals


            Recently it seems like our government has been rocked by scandal after scandal.  Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative groups, the AP scandal, and now the PRISM program scandal.  Do I think it is necessary for journalists to hold our government accountable for this in covering this news?  Yes, of course.  But to have these highly sensationalized “scandals” dominate the news media and elected officials time does not do anyone any good. With the Benghazi scandal, it’s primarily conservatives that consider it a scandal.  And from my reading on the IRS scandal, while targeting conservative groups is obviously less than ethical, it seems that many who were investigated illegally applied for tax-exempt status.  Honestly, how much weight can you give to someone trying to scam the government, regardless of their political bent?  While I do think there needs to be journalistic coverage of the AP and PRISM data mining scandals, the current presentation of the data leaks resembles a headline about a Real Housewife cheating on husband.  Maybe  we could intelligently discuss where the line between personal privacy and government access should fall instead of pointing fingers and trying to create the most sensational headlines?
            The reality is that my generation, those of us in our 20s, are disillusioned and distrustful of our government.  In Harvard University’s annual spring poll of young Americans, they found that only 39% of younger Americans trust the president and only 18% trust Congress.  And I must say, I see this attitude among my friends, and I feel it too.  I am sick of a congress and journalism culture that is too busy pointing fingers at the other side to have intelligent discussions to create solutions benefitting the American people.  How are we supposed to have our privacy protected?  When will we see improvements in our country’s financial structure and education?  What about the affordable healthcare that almost every other Western country has?  We all knew that the growing digital age would bring complications to privacy and information access.  But we find ourselves at the same old familiar crossfire of angry words and pointed fingers instead of thoughtful debate and innovative policies. The same Harvard poll found that 84% of young Americans agreed with the statement “Politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing.” And in the midst of another “scandal” I see my faith in the government drop even lower.  These scandals are just further evidence of politics failing to meet the challenges of our time due to an inability to work together and act in the best interest of the American people.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hope. Lesson From Louiedog

Lessons from Louiedog- Commitment

            So as I am typing this, I have a 40-pound cattle dog mix leaning against my calves.  It’s storming outside, complete with lightning and thunder, and he’s terrified of thunder.  Clearly we weren’t a hunting dog in our former life, we were?  The cattle dog’s name is Louie, or Louiedog, as he’s most often referred to.  He’s been my lovable canine sidekick and most loyal friend for exactly one year now.
            Every year several stay dogs wander up to the rafting outposts on the Chattooga. This black and white spotted one seemed well mannered and sweet.  My friend Nathan feed him and took care of him, but the manager at the rafting company told him that they really couldn’t have a dog on the property with all of the guests coming and going, especially a stray with no vaccination record.  “OK,” I said, “If you can’t find his original owner or anyone else to take him by the end of the week, I’ll take him.”
            Well, the end of the week rolled around and no one had claimed him, so simple as that, I lead him over to my car, he jumped in, and off we went.  It’s funny how sometimes the biggest commitments happen with little fanfare, just a quick moment that changes everything.  Suddenly I had a dog, an animal that I was responsible for, and at the time, I was working as a field instructor for Second Nature, and had to decide what to do with him while I was at working.
            Hoping that I would be able to take him to the field, I decided that before going home I would take him to the Universal Joint here in Clayton.  I wanted to see how he interacted with my friends, how well he obeyed me, and how he socialized with other dogs, which were allowed on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.  I had this mental picture of a lovely, obedient dog that initially followed my every command and responded with a happily wagging tail and submissive temperament to every other dog he meant.  Obviously this is not what actually happened.  He pulled me around everywhere, escaped from his collar twice, tried to eat someone’s French fries, and got into a minor fight with the Medical Coordinators older, gentle Pointer.  Flustered, I took him back to my house. 
            Once I got back to my house I made another naïve decision.  I decided to let him off of a leash in the driveway and see what he would do.  Again I expected him to be immediately loyal to me, since I did just save his ass and all.  And if nothing else he would follow me because I was the strong, assertive pack leader, doing my best Ceaser Milan impression.  Wrong again.  As soon as I took him off the leash he bolted down the driveway, found the dog that roamed the cul-de-sac I lived on, and chased it off into the woods barking and growling.
            At this point I was furious, and having a little bit of an emotional meltdown.  Great, I had owned a dog for a total of two hours and in that time he had gotten into two fights and I had already managed to loose him.  Epic fail.  But I wasn’t ready to go down without a fight of my own.  I charged into the bushes, walked through my neighbor’s unkempt back yard, and found that little black and white rebel, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him on the ground.  “No!” I yelled, “bad dog!” (Certainly not the last time he heard those words).  I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him back up to my house.
            I put him in the house, sat on the couch, and in a panic realized what a mistake I had made.   What was I going to do with this dog?  I couldn’t just bring him back to the rafting company.  Everyone would think I was a terrible person, and besides he would just end up at the animal shelter, which unfortunately has a high euthanasia rate due to lots of stray dogs.  And besides, even if I found another owner for him on Craigslist or something, what was I going to say?  Sorry I couldn’t hack being a dog owner for more than two hours? Maybe the people who told me I shouldn’t get a dog were right, now I was locked in to taking care of this animal and my life would forever be compromised.  If I couldn’t handle a dog, how would I ever raise kids?!?
            And it was amidst this state of panic that I realized maybe I was getting ahead of myself.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was expecting this dog to be perfect right from the get go.  That I had assumed our dog/owner relationship would just fall into it’s natural and correct order simply because I had chosen the dog that was meant for me.  Realistically, my ability to chose and care for a dog didn’t have to reflect on my entire personality (and certainly not my ability to care for kids in the distant future) and maybe I should give it a few days, or at least try to feed him first, before I decided whether I could keep him.  And if after a couple weeks it still wasn’t working out, I would do everything I could to find him a great new home.  Yes, it would be a failure of sorts, but definitely a learning experience and certainly not the end of the world.
            Well it’s been exactly a year now, and obviously things have worked out.  After feeding him and walking him for a few days he started listening to me, and I figured out he only growls at other male dogs when he is on a leash.  Yes he still eats anything remotely edible on his level, tries to chase things with diesel engines, and takes inopportune 45 minute romps through the woods that leave me panicked and furious.  And I have had to make compromises in my schedule and travel plans to take care of him.  But despite the moments of anger and inconvenience, I’ve never regretted getting a dog.  Louie follows me around the house, sleeps at the foot of my bed, and few things make me happier than running through the woods with him on a nice trail. 
            In becoming a dog owner, my entire perception of commitment changed.  Whenever you commit to something new, whether it’s a career path or a partner, a dog or a city, you always have this ideal image of how it should be in your head, and the reality is usually far from that picture.  But if you relax, give it some time, get in touch with reality and accept that failure won’t make the sky fall down, things tend to work out well in the end.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hope. -Intro

Happiness is the ultimate human goal. Think about it. It is not selfish... it can spread, it can be brought on by action, it is what we keep-on-keeping-on for, it is what keeps us healthy. This portion of the blog is devoted to promoting happiness. We will be publishing peronal reflections on happiness, promoting others thoughts and ideas on happiness, and try to be as positive as possible on this portion of the blog. Optimism coupled with realism.

Learn Cautiously to Learn with Integrity (Learn.'s Intro)

It is absolutely shocking how much influence mainstream media has on our everyday existance. Even more shocking is how wild tangents can instantly become a rapidly spreading tree of misinformation that becomes (apparently) factual when it hits television network status. This portion of the blog is devoted to spreading Long-Term News in a as untainted (not necessarily unfiltered) fashion as we can. Considering both Liberal and Conservative views and hopefully everything inbetween.

Play. (Intro-Zach)

June 05, 2013
by Zach
Play: Hiking
Hiking over 1,800 miles on the Appalachian Trail (AT) was the most mentally and emotionally demanding, yet fulfilling adventures I have partaken in to this date. The never ending monologue, roots, rocks, and mud, but inner peace only achieved by removing ones self from society, becoming a hermit, an outlier, several socioeconomic rings below your accustomed existence. I am currently taking a break from the trail to save it for when I need it again.

Play: Running
Running is my new jam
No matter how much focus is spiralling towards race-day, ultimately what I love about running is the every-day training fit into a busy day. A break from the everyday norm. Time to turn off your brain, fall forward and catch yourself.

Recent Races:
  • Kate: Fort Yargo Trail Half Marathon (13.1 Miles) 2:20-ish February
  • Zach: Asheville Marathon (26.2 Miles) 3:22:15 (1st in Age Group) March
  • Zach: Knoxville Marathon (26.2 Miles) 3:11:45 (1st in Age Group) April
  • Zach: Chattooga Ultra-marathon (50k plus) waiting on results May 
Play: Kayaking

A DirtBag Sabbatical: A Synopsis of Summer 2012
Traveling, Kayaking, Hiking, Biking, 1.5 Jobs, Living for 4 months out of a Homemade Camper... A drifter's dream.

My Milkshake Brings All the (Vegan) Boys to the Yard

June 05, 2013 (6:05pm)
by Kate
My Milkshake Brings All the (Vegan) Boys to the Yard

Ok, so maybe just this one vegan boy named Zach, but hey, I’ll teach you and I

won’t even charge! So I’ve been following this vegan diet recently, and I must say, I

have a few love hate feelings with the “no dairy” part. I notice that I have more

energy, less stomach problems and clearer skin when I am not eating dairy.

Obviously these are all good things that I appreciate from my new diet. But the

problem is that I am missing my one great edible love, a food I could eat every day at

every meal and never grow sick of. And that, my friends, is ice cream.

Maybe it’s the South Florida childhood that wants nothing more than a cold,

creamy ice cream cone on a humid, hot day spent swimming and running around in

the sun. And honestly, I can’t think of a food that has a more satisfying texture;

sweet, refreshing, melts in your mouth. I love ice cream in all forms, but I must say

my particular favorite is the milkshake. And so I was elated to discover, via a happy

accident of trying to create a paleo protein shake that didn’t taste like garbage (yes,

I’ve tried it all as far as diets go), that I discovered this recipe. Completely dairyfree, no added sugar, and tastes just like a milkshake with two of my favorite flavors,

peanut butter and bananas as well!

Here’s what you need:

-Almond or soy milk (I like to use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

-Ice cubes

-Peanut butter

- A banana

- A blender

Put about 5 ice cubes in a blender. Then put the banana in a blender. I find the riper

the banana the better. Then put peanut butter in the blender; I like peanut butter

a lot so I probably put like 4 tablespoons in. Then put in almond milk so that the

bananas, ice cubes and peanut butter are almost covered but not completely. Hit


The thing I love about this recipe is that you can personalize to your tastes. Usually

I blend, taste a spoonful, see what it’s missing in my mind to taste more like a

milkshake, then go from there. For instance, if it’s too runny or not cold enough, I

add more ice cubes. Kind of bland? Maybe a little more peanut butter. Feel free

to get creative; try chocolate soy milk, add some spices, almond butter instead of

peanut butter. It’s mainly the combination of creamy peanut butter with almond

milk and ice cubes that give it the ice cream flavor/texture. Hopefully it will help all

you ice cream loving vegans out there feel like you don’t have to miss your favorite

food any longer!

Vegitas- The truth about vegetables

So I think if you asked anyone in America what they needed to do to be

healthier, they would say, “eat more fruits and vegetables.”  Not rocket science right?

But as many of you produce department cruisers have found, this is much easier

said than done, especially when it comes to the veggies.

Sure, there are some vegetables that taste good raw.  Carrots, celery,

tomatoes and lettuce if you’re going to make a sandwich (though I think tomatoes

are a fruit…) ummm, did I say carrots already?  I guess cucumbers taste OK…

Despite celebrities like Alicia Silverstone toting the values of a raw diet and all those

cleanses that require a $150 juicer to make, the reality is that for a lot of vegetables,

if you’re going to eat them raw you might as well go ahead and eat a handful of

grass.  What in the world am I supposed to do with this bag of Brussels sprouts? 

And what potential taste-good mysteries are concealed inside that acorn squash?

But fortunately, for many vegetables, there is one secret weapon, an easy

culinary code to bring out the taste they were born to have, elevating them from

easier to chew cardboard into healthy taste bud bliss.  And all you need is a cookie

sheet, and oven, olive oil and some salt. 

  • Step 1: preheat your oven to somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 degrees.

I usually go with 425, but I think anywhere between 400-450 will do the trick.

  • Step 2: Prepare your veggies.  Wash them, and then cut them up.  For

broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and any sort of potato, go with bite sized pieces.  For

asparagus, break off the bottom (fatter) end.  For bigger squash, you can either cut

them in half and lay them face up on the cookie sheet, or remove the rind and cube

them.  For Brussels sprouts, cut off the end, cut in half and lay face down.

  • Step 3: place on cookie sheet and coat with a thin layer of olive oil and some

salt.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands to rub that olive oil in.

  • Step 4: Put it in the oven.  It’s done when you can easily put a fork into the

veggie and it’s soft  (for smaller things, like broccoli and squash cubes, this can take

between 12-15 minutes).  If you want crispy veggies, leave it in until you see it start

to brown.

  • Step 5:  Let it cool down so it doesn’t burn your mouth, and then enjoy

vegetables like you’ve never seen them before!