Post-summer camp study hall

After I pick the kids up from summer camp every day at 4, I still have an hour of work to do (at least). If the kids want to watch some tv, they have to spend some time with their workbooks. So our afternoons frequently look like this, with all of us working at the kitchen table together. 

I wish I could say they smiled all the time while working. Heck, I wish I could say that about myself. 

Worth reading: The Skamania County Pioneer

I spent a weekend on the Columbia Gorge recently, and happened to buy a copy of The Skamania County Pioneer, the local paper, in a Stevenson, Washington. 

1. There are still local newspapers in small towns; isn’t that good to know?

2. This paper has a Sheriff’s Incident Log that is pure, unadulterated GOLD. 

Out-of-towner subscriptions are only $35 per year. If you want to help support local papers, and can spare the cash, you can call (509) 427-8444 to subscribe and keep up to date on the happenings in the Gorge. If you also like to use story prompts for writing exercises, you’ll be quite pleased with the Pioneer’s Sheriff’s Incident Log, as you’ll see in the photos below. 

That green trailer haunts me to this day.
“covered in red paint for some reason.”
Horses. Always skedaddling when you least expect it.
Relax everyone. The goats are ok.

Cauliflower and Rutabaga Curry

img_7318I really like eating vegetarian lunches, to cut down on my meat consumption, and also because most vegetarian meals are high in fiber and low in calories. This usually means that I cook a big pot of something over the weekend that I eat for lunch all week. It might sound like a lot of work, but when you tend to forget to eat lunch until you’re starving past the point of thinking straight (cough), it’s really nice to know exactly what you can eat to fix that calorie deficit, pronto.

Andrea’s Lunch Dish is also handy for getting my fix of foods that the rest of my family doesn’t much like. The kids aren’t about to start eating spicy Thai red curry anytime soon, and it would just be a misery for us all if I asked them to. So last week, my pot-of-lunch was a cauliflower and rutabaga curry, over wilted spinach and quinoa. A friend mentioned wanting the “recipe” and voila! a blog post is born.

This dish is dead simple, if you have the ingredients handy. I started with 1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets, and 3 rutabagas, peeled and cubed to about a 1/2 inch size. I minced up about half a small onion and sauteed it in about a 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, until it was soft. Then I tossed in the cauliflower and rutabaga and sauteed on medium for about 5-10 minutes, until it was starting to soften. Then I tossed in about a tablespoon of red curry paste — Taste of Thai is easy to find at most grocery stores, but that’s an affiliate link if you need to mail-order; it keeps forever and is very versatile — and move that around for a while in the pan to try to coat the veggies with the paste. This is just to avoid having big chunks of curry paste hiding in the dish, ouch. You can use more or less curry paste, depending on your heat preference. 🙂

Once the paste has kind of melted around the veggies, toss a can of coconut milk on top — can be light or full-fat coconut milk, as you prefer (I prefer regular coconut milk; the light version tastes thin to me), and mix it all up. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Hopefully the veg was mostly cooked before you threw the coconut milk on, but if you underestimated and you need to simmer it for 20 minutes longer, that’s fine. When the veg is soft enough for you, take the whole thing off the heat. I let it cool on the stove for an hour or two before I put it in the fridge, to keep my fridge from having to work too hard.

I happened to also make a big pot of quinoa on Monday of the week that I was eating this, so this week I ate the curry over that. But it could have been nearly any kind of starch — rice, noodles, etc. When it was lunch time next, I just put a few handfuls of  fresh baby spinach on about 3/4 cup of  cold quinoa, and microwaved that for about 2m to wilt the spinach. then spooned about a cup of curried vegetables with sauce on top of that, and then microwaved another 2m or so until hot. Toss some chopped cilantro on top if you want to be SUPER fancy.

You can make this same kind of curry with practically any vegetable. Cubed butternut squash with broccoli, cauliflower with potato, rainbow carrots and kale, japanese eggplant and snap peas maybe. If you keep a few cans of coconut milk in the pantry and curry paste in the fridge, you also have the base ingredients for a delicious coconut curry soup made from pureed squash, potato, cauliflower whatever. Many yummy dishes await you! Enjoy.

Your typical late-December internal monologue 

Lizard Brain: “The body feels bad, why? A cookie will probably help.” 

Thinking Brain: “That bad feeling is menstrual cramps, not hunger. Take some ibuprofen. Cookies taste good at first but end up making us feel crappy and sad later.”

Lizard Brain: “Oh yeah, ibuprofen. Cool. But also probably a cookie.”

Thinking Brain: “How about some water? Cookies will make us feel more tired. It’s 9am for heaven sake. We had a big, healthy breakfast and are not feeling hungry at all.”

Lizard Brain: “Water and three cookies? On it.”

The fear of a bad Christmas; or, not another “the real gift isn’t under the tree” post

IMG_2371.jpgAround this time of year I tend to catch myself acting weird, and realize in astonishment (every year!) that I’m feeling some low-level anxiety about Christmas. Consistently and inexplicably, I worry that The Kids Will Not Have A Good Christmas.

Where does this come from? Why does it not collapse under the weight of its own complete improbability? I mean really, what kid ends a morning of opening gifts and says, “that was the worst”? OK, I realize this is a hugely privileged statement; obviously families that struggle with abuse, poverty, food/housing insecurity can definitely have a terrible holiday season. But that’s not the situation for my kids, so why do I keep telling myself the story that Christmas is a time that I’m in danger of displeasing them? I don’t seem to worry about this at breakfast on Jan 11, for example.

Giving gifts is weird. When you give someone something, you make an anticipatory decision about what they want or what they might enjoy. It’s a strange kind of defining action, a test of the gift giver’s knowledge of the gift getter. To excel (because I love to excel in all things), you have to go deeper than what the person *says* she wants, into the depth of her unexpressed desires. I get it, it shows connection and intimacy. It’s also an exercise in deep vulnerability. “I think I found a material object that will please you,” says the wrapped package. “Let’s see how right I am.”

So yeah, the holidays — if you celebrate them with a raft of material-gift-giving like I tend to — is a vulnerable time, with multiple chances to love your loved ones in the wrong way, or with the wrong thing. (Whose idea was this, anyway?) I want it to be fun and relaxed and exciting and fulfilling. But at the same time, I carry all these expectations and fears and they make it hard to do the fun stuff because my hands are already pretty full. Also, dread makes me hungry so my hands are also full of cookies, argh.

I hope this year (and every year) that I can put down the fear of failure long enough to embrace the vulnerability and accept the chaos. I hope you can too.

Embracing inclusion by fighting your brain

Recently I’ve been talking with community organizers about how we can both organize inclusive events and also do that organizing in an inclusive manner. WordPress is an open source project, and because open source depends on a large active contributor base, we have to constantly think about how to make the project welcoming and inclusive.

One of the goals for the WordPress Community Team is to organize in-person events (meetups and WordCamps) that help connect and inspire WordPress enthusiasts. We ask organizers to organize welcoming and inclusive events, AND we ask them to do that organizing in a welcoming and inclusive manner. (Double play!) This means we encourage organizers to recruit a diverse organizing team, work transparently, and embrace community involvement and feedback.

All of that sounds great and seems simple enough, right? We have great tools for publishing information for everyone to see (namely, WordPress), we have great language around how our program is open to everyone, we have a code of conduct, yay! Inclusion!

Except of course we’re all humans, thinking with our human brains. Human brains, alas, are not always our friends when it comes to diversity and inclusion, because human brains are primarily wired to keep our bodies alive. And from our brains’ perspective, diversity and transparency have not kept our bodies alive for millions of years. What human brains have found highly successful re: the survival of the human race is: to create and stay in small groups of people with similar looks and values.

So in many ways, the work of a community organizer in an open source project is to fight with your brain a lot. This is what happens for me at least, multiple times per day:

“Danger!” say my brain. “Someone different wants to join our group!”

“Shhhh…” I say back to my brain. “It’s going to be ok, they just want to help.”

“But they’re not like us and they might fight us and we might lose and then we’ll die!” suggests my brain.

“I see what you’re saying,” I reply, “but really this discomfort is not dangerous, and we really need more people who are different, to help us grow.”

“Harumph,” says my brain. “I’m certain you’re wrong, so I’m going to sit back quietly course-correct us toward safety with my favorite tools, adrenaline for change and endorphins for sameness, until you stop endangering us with your crazy ideas.”

“Ok,” I sigh, “I realize you can’t help it, so I’m going to use logic and patience to keep reminding us that tight-knit exclusive groups, paranoia, and suspicion will not serve any of the goals we have in building open source communities.”

And scene.

I don’t have a solution to my assertion that open source goes against human nature, other than this practice of fighting my instinctual attraction to exclusivity and closed groups/processes. If you’ve found a method that works for you, I’d love to hear it! 🙂

 

WWWP5K

I participated in a 5K this morning, along with a bunch of folks in my company. 

That’s me in the white hat!

I ran it slow, at roughly a 12:00-13:00 pace. It was cool and a little rainy, but quite beautiful. We ran on a trail around a golf course in Whistler BC — this is the week of our annual meetup, in which all of us spend a week together in the same place (the other 51 weeks of the year, everyone works remotely). It’s been an intense week of classes, town halls, workshops, and face to face communication, and running this trail every morning has really helped me keep my head on straight. 

Golf course with mountains