Friday, August 31, 2012

Wandering the Stacks

This week I had the pleasure of wandering the stacks at KU's Watson Library.

Usually when I'm working on research, I use the fantastic retrieve from shelf service offered by the library. While browsing the online catalog one can just click on a button at the bottom and have a book delivered to the front desk of any library on campus. This saves me a lot of time and many trips up the hill to Watson, as I'm generally on a different part of campus. Earlier this month, though, the Art Library was hit with a huge flood from a water main break, and remains under construction, so I can't get books delivered to my part of campus. I could still have books delivered to the Watson desk, but yesterday I decided to wander the stacks for a bit in search of what I needed.

First off, this took a long time. While it was great fun to wander through the narrow stacks of books, take the ancient cage elevators up to the half floors, and cruise past the mid-century research desks, I had forgotten how huge Watson Library is. I had books to find on 1 East, 1 1/2 Center, 1 Center, 3 West, and the East Asian Collection on 5. The library was built in the 1920s, but the half floors were added later to provide additional space. Some areas of the library feel quite hidden away, and others have great views out over the valley from tiny windows that one happens upon. There is definitely a sense of discovery in wandering the stacks.

Second, a few things weren't on the shelf. While the student library employees will take the time to find incorrectly shelved books, I didn't have very much time. This is another reason I like to use the service- it keeps students employed.

In any case, it was pleasant to see students studying in the various nooks throughout the library, and to find some bonus books on the shelf by looking at the titles surrounding the texts I was looking for.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get Outside

A few weeks ago, in the midst of a stressful summer, we took a week long camping trip in Colorado.

Being outdoors for so many days was a great recharge. A great way to relax and get away from those ever-present screens that dominate our lives. A way to breathe and remember how amazing nature is. A way to slow down.

A few things struck me about our trip. First off, before we left nearly everyone we talked to asked us if we were taking our 2 year old with us. When we said yes, many asked if we were tent camping. This is weird to me, as the definition of camping is sleeping in a tent, but we replied yes. Many seemed to think we were brave or crazy or getting into something we didn't understand. Actually, camping with a toddler is about the easiest thing to do with them. Our sprout didn't have a tantrum or meltdown the entire time. He played in the dirt, explored the campsite, watched the birds, built cities out of sticks and rocks. He ate smores and drank from a water bottle and even learned to pee in the woods (which he felt qualified him to be a "mountain boy"). He had free range of our camp and exhausted himself hiking and playing. I honestly believe that some hard-wired part of him understood the dangers of the woods, and so he stayed close.

We often forget that being outdoors is a natural state. Sitting inside with the t.v. and the demands of constant e-mail, artificial light and air, this isn't how we evolved. Kids who play outdoors have a lower incidence of nearsightedness. Outdoor play develops skills and judgmental abilities that are not possible with indoor play. Yet, fewer and fewer people are getting outdoors. This is the other thing that struck me about our trip- we saw noticeably less people in campgrounds and on hiking trails. Some of this may be due to the massive wildfires that struck Colorado in recent months, but we've noticed less people at campgrounds in the Midwest as well, and fewer folks hiking in all the regions we've traveled in the past few years. This type of outdoor play is relaxing for adults and crucial for kids. Not only do we need it for brain development and to lessen the anxieties of our modern world, but we also need to teach kids to appreciate the natural world so they will take a role in preserving it.

Camping and hiking can help put things in perspective- I know when I get home I'm grateful for a flush toilet, a plush bed, climate control, and running water, things that most citizens of the world don't have and that we can easily take for granted. Hike a few miles up a mountain on a rocky trail and you will have a new appreciation for cars and paved roads. I appreciate the luxuries of modern life, but I think our entire family looks forward to our next wilderness trip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The little bit of lovely that graces the corner of the bedroom.

It's been a crazy few weeks, more soon!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ginger Carrot and Cabbage Stir-fry

Less than 30 minutes from harvest to table.

I'm not sure which is better, this delicious meal made with fresh-from-the-garden veggies, or the technology that allowed me to create this great collage in about five minutes. The recipe is one of our favorites- a super easy weeknight meal that packs a health punch of veggies. Our carrots, as you can see above, are a bit small this year, but they were still flavorful and had that great fresh texture that store bought can't replicate. I planted the cabbage early in the season, but with our unusual heat and the plague of cabbage moths, it took a bit longer to mature than it probably should have. In any case, I got a few perfect heads of cabbage, and the imperfect ones still have a tasty flavor. The crisp texture and slightly peppery flavor of fresh cabbage is such a treat.

The recipe is one that we adapted from a small cookbook titled Homestyle Japanese Cooking. In that recipe, the protein is pork, but we substitute seitan and added carrots to the mix, using powdered ginger instead of ginger juice. We also use less oil than suggested.

Ginger Carrot and Cabbage Stir-fry

3 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)

2 tbsp sake, cooking sake can be found at Asian markets or well stocked grocers
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 small head cabbage, chopped
2 tsp powdered ginger
2 inch section of fresh ginger, diced
1 bunch carrots (about 3 large, 6 small), matchstick
about 8 oz. seitan, cubed

Combine soy sauce, powdered ginger, sake, and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add fresh ginger, carrots and cabbage, stir-fry for about 3-5 minutes. Add seitan and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add sauce mixture and stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Serve over sushi rice.