sonoma county


Today I was thinking about a quote – you know the one, that says “Pain is your friend, it lets you know you’re still alive” – and I realized that I couldn’t place it. And it occurred to me that this is likely due to the fact that it’s such a universal idea, employed by nearly every war/drama/comedy film out there.

[Just as I was writing this I remembered where the exact line is from: G.I.Jane, as spoken by Viggo Mortensen. Aha! Writing solves everything.]


Universal ideas: they have a 50/50% chance of wreaking havoc on your life. They’re everywhere: everyone dies, love is all we need, love with kill you, money talks, good will out, etc. Check out some Beatles albums – you’ll find many. And for all their generality, they usually turn out to be true. My 18th Century British Lit professor will hate me for saying this, but the universal human condition often turns out to be just that – universal.

So I suppose as I relate the following anecdote, many of you will know where I’m from – and if you don’t, oh just wait, you will.

Let me say that as of late, my life has become a cluster fuck. And like any good English major, I love this phrase because it brings up so many appropriate images in varying intensities. While there are several aspects I could go into here, I will say that the heart of the cluster – the chewy center, if you will – is my personal life.

This weekend, determined to get away from it, I hiked up to the top of a hill in a local park, with one of the best views in Sonoma county, and just sat there for a bit. Totally alone, wind in my face, watching the falcons swoop up and down on the wind currents. Peaceful, right?

And that’s when the little God who controls the Ipod shuffle intervened. I kid you not, every song that came up was somehow echoing the exact thoughts in my head. And I thought to myself, either I am projecting my troubles heavily onto everything around me, or everything around me knows my troubles.

I chose the latter.

I am becoming ever aware of the fact that life is messy. And frustrating. And causes people around you to punch the sides of armoires. But in these moments there is a reassuring sense that you are somehow participating in the angst of the world – a universal pulse. Maybe no one’s pain is exactly the same, but maybe at the heart of it all, it is more alike than not.

I cannot help feeling that if all I gain from these trials is a deeper understanding of country music, so be it. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, but I feel like whatever may happen, at least I’m still here, being frustrated, and upset, and thoughtful, and alive.

And for the record,

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Despite this summer’s unseasonably-cold weather, I’ve been trying to visit a variety of places recently, or revisit those I haven’t been to in a very long time before school starts, and the mania begins. Here are 3 recent  reasons why I love California!

1. Kayaking at Valley Ford

0811101522-00  A lovely, quiet place to kayak through miles of marshways and waterways that eventually lead to the ocean at Estero. Easy current and a sense of privacy, since not many non-local people know about it. 20100811174038

2. Hiking at Sugar Loaf State Park

cLots of trails –some challenging, some definitely not – that wind up into Sonoma County. FYI: The “Hillside” trail can feel like a bit more than walking up a hill (it burns), but there are thousands of ripe blackberries to snack on, which helps. There’s also a really powerful telescope in the park that opens during certain nights for deep space viewing (think faraway planets etc.) It cost $8 to get in, where there’s lots of bathrooms and picnic areas, and camping as well. 13

3. Beaches along Pacific Coast Highway 1, above Half Moon Bay

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Seriously spectacular fields of flowers. Definitely worth a stop along the highway. I can’t remember the name of this beach, but it has gorgeous yellow sand. 0725101734-01

Happy Saturday!

UPDATE: See the NEWER version of this recipe on my Gluten-Free site, Gluten-Free Dreaming, HERE!

 

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One of my favorite parts of summer is the time when all the blackberry bushes start to ripen, around the end of July. When I was younger we had several bushes in our backyard, and they would always be ready for picking right when we got home from yearly camping trips. Last year I of course had to make a pie with the fresh berries, and it was super-easy because I could use pre-made pie crusts. But this year, being gluten-free and all, things were a little more difficult. I tried searching the internet for a simple gluten-free recipe, but everything either had odd ingredients or was endlessly complicated. I basically try to make everything the same, but just minus a few certain ingredients, like flour and dairy.

Therefore I used my tried and true The Cook Book Berry Pie recipe, with a few changes. *

Gluten-Free Blackberry Pie

Ingredients:

For the bottom crust:41F3Y1ZK9XL._SS500_

– 1 1/8 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s mixture of several flours)

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1/3 cup Earth balance buttery spread (vegan, gluten-free sticks)

3-4 tablespoons cold water

For the crumb topping:

– 1/2 cup all earth_balance_sticks_vegan_store_vivagranolapurpose gluten-free flour

– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

– 3 tablespoons buttery spread

– 1/2 cup GF oatmeal

For the fruit filling:

– 5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

– 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I used half sugar, half Splenda)

– 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour

– 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel/zest

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. To prepare crust (double recipe for two crusts, though gluten-free dough can be difficult and hard to get a perfect top crust with, hence the crumb topping): Using a food processor (or pasty blender) add flour, butter, and salt, pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal with a few big pieces. With processor running, quickly add the 3 tbsp cold water through feed tube, stop processor when all water in added; scrape sides. Process with two pulses, remove  and shape into a ball. Place in fridge until filling is ready. ** You may need to add extra water with gluten free dough, when I made it I accidentally used 6 tbsp and it came out good.

3. For crumb topping: Stir or use food processor to combine flour, oatmeal, and sugar, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.

4. For the filling: In large bowl stir together berries (if just washed try to soak up excess water with paper towel), sugar, and thickener (flour). Add lemon peel. GENTLY toss berries until coated.

5. Roll out bottom crust on a well-floured board and transfer to pie-pan; gluten-free dough can be hard to work with, you may have to press it into the pan with a floured hand.  Pour filling into pie shell, cover top with crumb topping.

6. Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil at 375, remove foil and cook for another 25-30 min, until filling bubbles and crust is golden. Filling may be not very firm, but will set up. Cool on a wire rack or in fridge before cutting/eating.

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Ta-Da!

This pie turned out pretty perfect, and I meant to take a picture of the full product, but as you can see, it didn’t last very long….

This pie can also be made with 5 cups of any other berry, with slightly different quantities for the filling:

 

 

Berry Filling      berries     sugar   thickener (flour)
Blueberries       5 cups 2/3 to 3/4 c     3 tbsp
Raspberries       5    3/4 to 1 c     1/3 cup
Mixed Berries       5 1/2 to 2/3 c     1/3 c
2 c blueberries, 2 c halved strawberries,
1 c black/raspberries

 

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If you have leftover berries, freeze them for later by first washing, laying them out on paper towels to dry, patting dry with paper towels, and then storing in an air-tight container.

There’s not too much crust in this recipe, so I’m going to pretend that’s it’s pretty healthy…and I think it is regardless, with all those antioxidants. Enjoy!

* Basic recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens The Cook Book, Limited Edition.

Good things recently.

[If you aren’t into the whole “glass half-full” thing, you might want to leave now.]image

 1. Being sick: You may be thinking “But illness is generally a bad thing….,” to which I say,  yes, it does suck. Especially when your ears are completely stuffed up and you have a Latin final during a time when you wish you could be at home watching re-runs and trying not to get sucked into the abyss of a head cold. But, what does not suck is when you start feeling better, and every day you wake up you feel progressively more like a human being again. Ah, to be able to appreciate the everyday normal workings of one’s sinuses. Plus, whenever I start getting down about my allergies (which are at their best right now, as I live in the capital of tall-growing sneezy grasses) I remember that they aren’t as bad as the recent evil cold.

image Ok, so I don’t have a window, but still…

2. New Job! So, as of this week, teaching English 99 will soon be over. Classes themselves are officially over. No more lectures about topic sentences and thesis statements, no more fervent 1a.m. grading sessions. I’m a bit sad not to be teaching at SSU anymore, but I was also getting a bit weary of it all. But, I will not be unemployed in the Fall – you’re looking at (well, reading at) SSU’s newly-appointed WEPT person. Which means an office upgrade; I get my very own little office (with a door and everything!) in a corner of SSU’s administrative building with which to do lovely WEPT-related tasks. I can only thank God (or the patron saint of employment, whatever) for giving me a reason to be away from home and to have a space of my own (well, for a time anyway) at school where I may escape into the small, bureaucratic world of filing, phone answering, and email replying. 

3. Finishing Latin: One whole year, down! Now to decide if I want to submit myself to the slightly-masochistic realm of language one again. I’m also considering French…whenever I look into Ph.D programs the language requirement makes me feel rather inadequate as an intellectual. I’ll work on it.

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4. Europe Trip: Less than 2 weeks away! Am I freaking out a little? Yep. Am I still in disbelief that I’m going, and that I actually have the money to pay for it myself? Indeed. Very, very excited.

5. Gluten-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts: Enough said.

Overall, general bounciness. I still have a pile of work to do before the semester ends, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A super-shiny-travelly-light.

 

Chaucer Blogger Revealed!

 

Now, go buy the book. Ye shall enjoy.

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Because, quite honestly, I can hardly put together a sentence from the combined lack of sleep, inability to breath like a human, and overdose of allergy pills. Plus, who doesn’t need a laugh this time of year?

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Ugh.

Sometimes I wish there was a better way to protest things.

Tomorrow, for example, there is a rally on my campus called “Walk out for education!” where everyone is going to leave their classes and congregate on the quad to make a fuss (I will be there, of course, I have to – as a grad student and college teacher I’m meeting both ends of the sharp stick). BUt it seems odd to me, to protest our dwindling education system by missing class-time. Granted, we can’t protest on Fridays, because the campus is technically “closed,” another lovely effect of the budget crisis, so any other day is going to have scheduled classes.

So come on everyone, let’s protest our watered-down classes by cutting down on our own class-time!

But it’s not as if all forms of social protest are nearly counter-productive. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and people held sit-ins, camping out in all sorts of establishments. These are great examples of non-violent protest that gets the point across effectively. Walking out of class to protest lack of classes is akin to African Americans refusing to ride the bus at all , or visit certain restaurants because they didn’t have equal rights. They wanted to right to be treated equally on buses, so they forced society to do so.

But I suppose we can’t protest budget cuts by holding a sit-in on campus, right?

My generation is, in many ways, in a bit of a tough spot. We don’t have the furvour of the 60s, yet we many of our issues are a great a threat to our future. My mom , a protester of the 60s, is always saying that we need to band together and protest things so that the authorities are forced to listen. But is our situation really solvable in that way? One might suggest that the problem of global warming can’t be solved as easily as stopping the Vietnam war. Can you compare the major issues of time periods, or are they apples and oranges?

I wonder if our generation needs some of that old blood, or to have some threat to our very existence thrown in our face. Will 20-somethings march on Washington if someone threatens their access to TV, iPods, or the blogosphere? Will “going green” become a lifestyle rather than a state of mind? Will California’s economy return the sparkle to the golden state?

I’ll be at the protest tomorrow, but whether it is the correct form of action is still yet to be seen.

 

(p.s. many many bonus point if you can figure out what movie the title comes from)

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