Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Economics? This post is more or less unrelated...

Hey all!

So as I've alluded to and/or mentioned previously, I dig kitchen activities (such as cooking and baking... cleaning is fine, I guess). When I'm procrastinating it's usually while standing over a vat of black beans that I've been soaking since yesterday, or else trying to perfect my hummus (starting to sound like Rachel Ray I know). All I'm trying to say is it's a passion, and this week I've embarked on a new (mis?)adventure in the kitchen.

A friend of mine, Steph, who also is enthusiastic in the pursuit of food-creation made a sourdough bread a week or two back. See, over the summer she was given a copy of the book 'Wild Fermentation', which is a non-fiction novel/cookbook that offers tons of recipes for foods that require fermentation, such as kimchi, cheeses, wines, and sourdough bread. We have yet to prepare as many of them as we'd have liked, but for both of us the idea of fermented foods is exciting because it involves quite a bit of, well, nature. ALSO it's exciting because according to the book many fermented foods have added health benefits that their un-fermented counterparts don't... and while I'm not going to feign to know any specifics, that's pretty sweet (the author is a long-time survivor of HIV, and claims fermented foods have played a role in his good health).

Above: the sourdough starter. Currently
in our townhouse storage unit for warmth.
After Steph's overwhelming success with the sourdough bread, I had to give it a try. I'm actually not using the recipe in the book mentioned above (because I found an easier one, teehee), but as of today I've begun growing my own sourdough starter, which is the (hefty) step 1 in making the bread. After you ferment a flour-and-water mixture for about a week, you end up with a mixture that is the basis (starter, if you will) of the bread, and from there you add more flour, water, yeast, etc.

Obviously there's still a week or so to go, but I'm quite excited to see how this turns out. Either way, I'll do my best to post a picture of the end-product! At that point I'll probably need some time away from whatever paper I'll be writing, anyway.

Thanks for reading! And Happy Fermentation!

Monday, October 27, 2014

On the Air: WWPV

I've enjoyed having a radio station since my sophomore year at Saint Mike's. Primarily it was fun just to be on the air, but over the course of a few semesters I've also found a lot of joy in planning playlists/segments and thinking about themes for shows. It's an outlet for creativity, and the actual broadcast is satisfying because it's an output; having a radio show makes me feel productive.

Since my little brother is also at Saint Mike's this fall as a first-year, we decided to do a show together. Since we're at different stages in the college process, having a few hours (5-7PM on Saturdays!) to chill together helps us ensure that we'll hang out regularly (at least once a week, but it ends up being more). It's pretty frequent that students pair up for show slots, and I think it's a cool way of blending music tastes and trying to find themes that intersect with different styles.

Overall, the process of becoming a WWPV DJ isn't too hard, but that's not to say that everyone gets a spot. You're asked to fill out an application with some simple questions, and they ask you to talk about musical taste and plans for a show if you get one. The station is run by an executive board (e-board) of elected students, which is pretty cool because it speaks to the accountability and responsibility of that board of students.

Once accepted as a DJ, you're expected to play radio-appropriate music (including some new music, designated by the e-board), broadcast a certain number of public service announcements (PSA's), and identify the station ("You're listening to WWPV...") every so often. Other than that DJ's are allowed quite a bit of autonomy in terms of content, and are largely encouraged to be unique and thoughtful. Some people have talk-show segments, or play entirely music. Others offer advice, tips, stories, or something interesting that can't necessarily be found on mainstream radio. It may not be a booming
DJ's Rosey & Benja chillin in the station.
medium, but radio provides many Saint Mike's students with an avenue to pursue conversation, provoke thought, and also play great tunes.

If you're looking to tune in some time, turn the transistor to FM 88.7 in the Burlington/Colchester/Essex Jxn area. If you're elsewhere, find us via this link.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting independent radio!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cooking in College.

Most people who go to Saint Mike's live on-campus, with the exception of people who choose to live at home or have asked Res-Life for an exception to live off-campus. For the people who do live on campus their entire academic career, it's usually the case that years 1, 2 & 3 are spent living in dorms and/or suites, while year 4 (sometimes 3) is spent living in an apartment or townhouse (here's a link to short descriptions of all the living situations). And with that transition to apartment/townhouse comes a kitchen, and the opportunity to cook one's own meals instead of the all-inclusive meal plan that's given to students in the first few years.

I've always loved to cook, so for me this change wasn't and adverse change. I actually have been on the '40-swipe' plan (as it's so-called) since the beginning of my junior year when I lived in an apartment on North Campus, and I lived in Burlington both this past summer and the summer previously. Given these circumstances, making my own food all the time wasn't much of a change. But it's also true that active students don't often have much time to spare, and cooking becomes an obstacle rather than an opportunity. I like to use cooking as a time to reflect or unwind, and that's due in large part to my 'kitchen toolbox', or the skills and knowledge I've gained that allow me to plan meals and prepare them efficiently. These take a long time to acquire, but there are still a few things that college students in-crisis can use to make cooking work better in their lives. I propose five:
The text to rule them all.

  1. Always have pasta. Or rice, or quinoa, or something that takes little oversight, not too much time, that you can put anything on. Eating pasta all the time isn't necessarily the best option, but the idea is to identify some versatile, filling staple to have in your cupboard that you like to eat. If you have this staple, then all you need in addition is a sauce, maybe some veggies and maybe some protein. You'd be surprised how many times I've enjoyed eating white rice covered in some mix of peanut butter, soy sauce, spices, and veggies.
  2. Cereal and milk. It works for breakfast if you're someone who doesn't have much time in the morning, or if you don't wanna turn on any appliances. It also works as a late-night snack, or a lunch/dinner in a pinch. I'll also add plain instant oatmeal to this bullet point (and to number 1), because not only is it something you can eat plain with milk, or with maple syrup/cinnamon&sugar in the morning, but oatmeal can also be the quickest versatile filling staple for any meal. I didn't used to eat much oatmeal because I thought of it as something only eaten sweet, but a trick I learned from one of my mentors on campus is to add black beans, cheese and Sriracha (if you'd like) for a 5-minute dinner on the go. You can pretty much treat it like rice, and it's instant.
  3. Apples, bananas, oranges. These snacks are healthy and pre-wrapped by nature. Better than junk snacks you buy at the store, and about the same price. Plus apples give you energy.
  4. Use a cookbook. I have two cookbooks that I keep next to my bed in case of an emergency and/or if I'd just like something to read. My parents got me the Ultimate Vegetarian cookbook last Christmas (pictured), and it's nearly on-par with Harry Potter given the number of times I've read it. My obsessions aside, cookbooks are nice because you might find a recipe to tie together whatever you have in the kitchen, or you might use a few recipes to plan a grocery list. The latter is nice if you're someone who needs direction in a grocery store because, not only do you know exactly what you're cooking later, but you can also save time wandering the clockless aisles of cereal boxes and soup cans.
  5. Framily dinners. Framily (friend + family) dinners are great 'cause they can be done potluck-style, or in such a way that everyone chips in a few bucks, or in such a way that a group of friends rotate dinners at one-another's houses every so often. This is great because it takes pressure off when someone else is cooking, and one can look forward to cooking for everyone else because it's not something one has to do all the time. Plus, this is a great way to ensure spending time with friends that are otherwise busy, and everyone gets a meal out of it.
Don't let cooking scare you, food is one of the best ways to get together and be merry with the ones we love. And if we don't have that time, food can also be a moment of reflection in an otherwise busy day, and a way to repay the body for all the hard work it's done for us.

Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Live Music: Dom Flemons at Higher Ground

If there's a theme to this semester, it's a healthy serving of live music. A few weeks back I saw Shovels and Rope in Montreal, Foster the People is playing at Saint Mike's next Thursday, and last night I saw Dom Flemons at Higher Ground (a concert venue in S. Burlington). I first saw Dom Flemons play when he was with Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Burlington waterfront two summers ago. Since then I've followed both CCD and Dom Flemons solo work since he's been pursuing that. 

When we first showed up to the venue it was just before show start time, 20 minutes or so after doors opened. But as I walk in Mr. Flemons himself is warming up on guitar, playing casual as can be before his opening band began their set. Grace and Tony, the opener, were also quite a good show. Also of a folky variety (drums, guitar, cello, banjo), their music choice was lyrically satirical and/or absurd. A great band to hear, for sure.

Grace and Tony played about 7-8 songs, then Dom Flemons came out again (this time on banjo). He played a few songs like that and then introduced his trio (the names of whom I can't recall, my apologies) on drums and stand up bass. He played a song or two that I'd also heard while he was with CCD, and quite a few folk songs that I hadn't heard him play before. Mr. Flemons and his trio have a stage presence that's engaging to the point of near hypnosis, and I enjoyed every strum.

I think it's worth it to go out for live music as regularly as one possibly can. If you're someone who likes live music and going to concert venues, seeing an artist live can be therapeutic and stress-relieving. Besides it's easy to see music around here. If you're not finding a show at Higher Ground or in downtown Burlington, you can always find one in Winooski and often on campus too. North Campus has a great music scene, and for many years has hosted the legendary Turtle Underground in the basement of Purtill Hall on the weekends.

Until the next show or sooner (neither of which can be too far off).

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shovels and Rope in Montreal!

Juts about six days ago (sorry, it's been a busy week!) my friends Carlos, Bri and I drove over the border to see Shovels and Rope play a show at the Corona Theater in Montreal. I've been looking forward to this show since I found out they'd be playing in the area a few weeks ago, since they're not normally in in these parts. Needless to say it was a religious experience.


We rolled into the city in time for a quick (deep fried) meal at Frite Alors!, which was either a really cool Canadian chain, or sweet frite spot with a really cool sign. Veggie burgers, fries and poutine were enjoyed with earnest.

Following that we made our way to the venue, stood in line for a bit, and got inside in time for the opener. John Fullbright was on guitar and piano, I don't remember the name of the guy playing with him, but they were raddd. Check em out!


Then, obviously, was the piece de resistance. Shout out to Carlos Sian for the photos below, he gets full credit for their capture.

Some of the songs off their set list include: Hail Hail, Kembra, OBJ, Gasoline, and soooo many more. I couldn't stop dancing (ask Bri), and at the end of the show my voice was raw. The show was Sunday night, we got back around 1AM, and it was all worth it.

Lay Low.

Jammin (don't remember the song).

Pre-show noms.

Nights like these are a reminder that even though there's lots to do in Burlington, we're never too far from a big city.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What to look for in a college.

Largely, my favorite experiences at Saint Mike's are outside the classroom. More often than sitting at a desk, I'm outside with Wilderness or planning an event or debating with peers about that reading last night. 

For example last week I attended the Onion River Review open reading, which happens periodically as a forum to share writing, art and music. People often read their own work, but it's common that attendees will share the works of other writers and artists as well. Not only are the stories, poems and songs incredible, but the atmosphere fostered in this environment is engaging and intoxicating. I watched a friend do slam poetry (which I'd never seen her do before) and for the rest of the night couldn't get her words out of my head. Connecting, not networking, but connecting with people on another level (insert: spiritual, intellectual, etc.) is something from which I've benefited invaluably at Saint Mike's, and this is also how I've learned the most alongside of and outside of my classes.

Saint Mike's is also beautiful in the snow.
I had no idea what I was looking for in a school as a high school student, but something about Saint Mike's caught my attention. I couldn't articulate it 5 years ago but now I think I can. At Saint Mike's, I found a school where I dig people not for what they do or who they are, but how those two things align. Part of being genuine is practicing what one preaches (I think), and by and large the people I like at Saint Mike's do just that. I think that at least one theme transcends academic discipline (at any school), and that's the problem of 'where is the world going?' We face a formidable set of very embedded, very global issues that are not easy to fix, and it is easy to fall into bleakness because of that. There is a word in Finnish for having guts in the face of adversity, and from what I understand many Finns like to identify strongly with this word, sisu. My intention is not to offend by borrowing it here, but sisu is a quality that I admire, and it's one that I find frequently in the people that I connect with intellectually at Saint Mike's. This is a virtue that I think will be part of the 'global solution,' to speak vaguely, and I believe I picked Saint Mikes (not necessarily cognizant of this at the time) because I was drawn to this quality in the people that come here (as faculty, staff and students).

Sisu, I imagine, takes many forms in day-to-day life. I think one of those forms is sharing slam poetry at an open reading and going rock climbing or whitewater paddling for the first time, When we graduate and the world is ours to solve (if it's not already), and the people I've connected with will connect with others and share their sisu, just as many people are already doing the world over. The future is challenging but that doesn't mean we have to submit to the intimidation of the unknown. The people I know at Saint Mike's are unwilling to submit, and thank god I knew enough to see that, even if I couldn't say it, four and a half years ago when I decided to attend.

If I can pass along any advice about what to look for in a college, I recommend you look for sisu. If you don't want to go all the way to Finland, then you might end up at Saint Mikes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rock Climbing in Vermont: Falls of Lana.

Saturday morning this past weekend Betsy and Lauren (fellow Wilderness Instructors) and I took a group of Saint Mike's students down to Falls of Lana for an intro to rock climbing day. Like most WP trips (hiking, paddling, biking, etc.) we met early in the morning around the fireplace in Alliot Hall, where we checked in, made sure gear was sorted, and then piled in the van for the drive down Route 7 (Falls of Lana is in the Middlebury area).

It was a bit of a cloudy day, but rain held off until the mid-to-late afternoon. We started the morning by setting a couple of routes to the right of the main wall (a short hike up from the state campground). After establishing belay and lowering techniques, everyone took turns climbing each route and belaying one another (don't ask me the names of these routes, not too sure about that).

We took a brief lunch at the top of the cliff (which had a great view of Lake Dunmore and the state park below), and then moved down the wall (climbers left) to set two more climbs for the afternoon. Since we were already at the top of the cliff, Betsy (our SPI-certified student instructor) set a releasable rappel and everyone took a turn descending back to the base of the climb (pictured). We climbed until it rained (and a little beyond that, actually) before taking down the climbs, coiling the rope, and trekking back to the van.

It was a solid group of participants that day, a memorable intro rock trip for sure! Some people are understandably shy their first few times out, but every participant on this excursion was engaged and excited to climb; we had a great time taking them out. If you'd like to sign up for a climbing program (or any program for that matter) visit the Wilderness program office on the second floor of Alliot Hall! It's right across the knight-card office.

Hopefully see you out in the field!

Thanks for reading.