June 2008

I really enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. For those of you who haven’t read the book, it’s a memoir-ish book about Kingsolver and her family’s year of living strictly on food they’d grown in their own garden or, when it was something they couldn’t produce themselve, bought locally.

For several years now I’ve wondered what it would be like if I had enough money to buy up some land and live off the earth. I have a grandmother and an aunt very much like Kingsolver. They had their own gardens and chickens and were very strict about what they would and would not eat. When I was younger I thought they were completely crazy, but now that I’m older I find myself wanting that way of life more and more. My parents also took up major gardening and animal raising after I’d moved out of the house and now I finally understand what they were trying to get to.

I really liked that Kingsolver’s book was not just a memoir, but also had pertinent information that might sway someone to decide to try eating locally or growing their own food. The informational boxes by her husband and the short essays and recipes from her daughter were some of my favorite parts of the book.

I also enjoyed her defense of farmers. I’ve been a newspaper reporter in two small towns, both filled with farmland, which gave me a lot of opportunities to meet and interview farmers. I grew to really admire their way of life and their ability to keep at it despite the numerous factors standing in their way. To someone who has never been on a farm, nor talked to farmers, Kingsolver’s descriptions may seem a little too poetic, but if you’ve ever been there you’d know that she’s pretty dead on. She mentions this in the book too, after going on vacation to meet with some of her Amish friends, one of her city friends teases her about how she described the farm as if there were no worries just because the farmers had time to commune with nature.

In the book there were also some parts that really stressed me out (the chapters about squash and tomatoes covering every surface of the house while they desperately tried to store and consume them). I currently have five tomato plants to take care of and have already been giving dozens of them away (luckily I don’t live in a rural place where everyone else is trying to do the same). I don’t know how I would cope with 50 tomato plants’ worth of tomatoes to deal with. This and learning to butcher animals would probably be the most difficult things for me if I decided to try living for a year off of food I produced myself. I think it would finally be the thing to push me into vegetarianism for real.

I think what I loved most about Kingsolver’s book is that it made me feel normal. Sometimes I think my friends think I’m crazy, like the year I decided to learn how to make jam and proceeded to give it to everyone as Christmas gifts. Reading about making your own cheese or canning tomatoes makes me want to rush out and buy all of the tools necessary so I can do it too.

Also, I loved Kingsolver constantly bringing up her issues with California produce. Kingsolver lives in Virginia and refuses to buy California produce because of how far it would have had to have been trucked in order to reach her supermarket. To her it’s upsetting that people think they can have produce all year round by trucking it in from far and wide. And I agree wholeheartedly. However, it’s easy for me to agree because I happen to be one of the lucky thousands to live IN California. That means I get fresh local produce, and a wide variety of it too, almost year round. Reading this book made me realize just how lucky I am to have that.

So what did you think? Did you like the book? Did you hate it? Do you think it would be possible to live this way in a city? What parts of the book did you like/hate? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you decided to eat only local foods? (For me, it would be bananas or pineapple.)

P.S. You can read other reviews of this book at:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Living to Read


Really, it’s only been four weeks? I feel like I’ve been doing this training forever at this point. It wasn’t so bad until yesterday’s 5.5-mile run. I’d actually been enjoying it up until then. But yesterday was really, really hard for some reason. It was only half a mile longer than last week, but it was killer. See, I run around this park that is 1.1 miles around. Running two or three times around it is hunky dory. But five times was a bit discouraging. Or maybe it was because none of my running partners was able to make it out yesterday. I don’t know, but I think I’m going to try running at the river next week instead. I’ve been avoiding it because the running trail there is paved and I’m worried it will be harder on my knees than the soft ground around the park. We’ll see how it goes though.

This next week is going to be a little bit lax on the running front. First, I’ll be moving into a new apartment so that’s bound to take a lot out of me. Second, it’s Fourth of July, which is one of the only holidays I actually like. And third, I’m driving to Utah with my sisters this weekend for a family reunion so I may not have time for my long run (plus it’s nearly impossible for me to run more than a mile in Utah due to the elevation change. I cannot breathe there!).

Totals for this week:
Mileage: 15.82 (only .18 short of my goal)
Average Pace: 11:10 (14 second increase from last week, awesome!)
Total Training Miles: 52.68

Update: 12:53 p.m., Sunday
I managed to read until almost 2 a.m., but I didn’t have the energy to come back and check blogs anymore, nor to update mine. Sorry! I didn’t mean to fall asleep either. I was reading and then thought I’d just rest my eyes for a second … and didn’t wake up until 7 a.m. I read again until 8:30, when I left for my long run. So, I think all together I did 15 hours of reading and 183 pages. Not such a great total, but at least I have something to beat for next year. Thanks everyone for cheering me on. The comments made my heart smile in a big way.

Update: 10:43 p.m.
I spent the last section of time reading one of my friend’s blogs, which she just began posting on. It’s a little risquee compared to my little book blog here, but she makes me laugh and I don’t see here nearly enough so I’m glad I now have a connection to her through her writing. I also read more of David Sedaris’ new book, which I’ve really enjoyed so far. I’m now up to 141 pages. Still kind of low, but definitely improving. My enthusiasm was wavering there for a bit, but I just took a shower to wake me up so I’m feeling refreshed and ready for the second half.

Update: 8 p.m. (hour 11)
Still reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
I managed to read 28 pages in the last couple of hours, which puts me at 105 pages for the day. I feel like this is really low compared to other readers. I never thought I read this slowly.

Anyhow, since my last update I also ate dinner and went for a walk as part of one of the mini-challenges. The walk was really nice, and Coco was really happy to have gotten out of the house. I haven’t taken her running at all this week because she had a limp earlier in the week. She was walking fine today so I’m assuming her paw is healed. There was a nice breeze despite the 90-degree weather. And the best part was that I could finally see the sky! Here in Sacramento we’ve had a depressing haze of wildfire smoke suffocating us for nearly a week so I was glad to see blue skies again. Also, it smelled like jasmine outside. To me it’s the smell of summer in California. I loved it. Oh, and the crows were cawing overhead. I think they were coming in to roost. Anyway, it was a nice break, so I was grateful for that challenge, and little Coco was as excited as ever to go for a walk. OK then, back to reading…

Update: 5:24 p.m. (hour 8?)
Still reading the same books, mostly Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this hour.
I’m up to 77 pages now (yes, another hour with only 11 pages read).
On the plus side I’ve managed to wean myself of checking the computer and reading all the blogs instead of focusing on my books so that’s good, right? However, all this reading about food has gotten me hungry. I made banana-oatmeal muffins during a recent break (really, it doesn’t take that long and I read while I was waiting for them to bake). Now my house smells delicious and I had a yummy snack before dinner. Next hour I want to read more than 11 pages and then I’m going to stop for a bit to prepare and eat dinner with my boyfriend. I should be back around 8:30. See you then!

Update: 3:51 p.m. (going on to hour 7)
What I’m Reading: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Pages Read This Hour: 24
Total Pages Read: 66
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2
Minutes Spent Blogging (reading and writing): 65

Updated 2:48 p.m. (Hour 5 – almost 6)
What I’m reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Pages read this hour: 11
Total pages read: 53
Books completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated in: 2
Minutes Spent blogging (total throughout read-a-thon, reading and writing): 60

This last 1.5 hours was spent reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I really like the chapter I just finished, which was about how Kingsolver learned to make her own cheese and why. I never realized how easy cheesemaking could be. I’ve always been interested in it, but was worried I’d make some fatal mistake. It seems though that you can make cheese just using milk from the carton and cheese cultures. Somehow I’d always though I’d have to get it directly from the cow, sans pasteurization (don’t ask me why I thought this, considering pretty much everything in this country is pasteurized). Anyway, I was super excited and plan to get the book she recommended about cheesemaking. Also, reading about food made me hungry so I took a short break to pick some tomatoes and basil for a tomato-mozarella-basil salad. Yum!

Updated 1:11 p.m. (Hour4)
What I’m Reading: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Pages Read This Hour: 31
Total Pages Read: 42
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2
Minutes Spent Blogging (reading and writing): 50

I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in the beginning of the day, but the pressure of the clock was making it difficult for me to concentrate so I decided to switch over to the new David Sedaris because the essay format would make it easier for me to break away if I wanted to check up on challenges and whatnot. Hopefully I’ll get back to Kingsolver’s book soon though.

In coming hours I will update this post unless a mini challenge comes up, in which case I’ll write a new post.

Hope the rest of you are faring well!

OK, so rules are made to be broken, right? I was just going to keep adding to my original post, but then I realized how LONG that would end up being, so now you’re stuck with tons of posts from me on your Google Reader. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

Moving on…

So far I have read 11 pages and 1 hour (unless reading blogs counts, then I’m up to almost two hours…) Woot!

And I have another suggestion for first-timers, or participants in general. And that suggestions is: Don’t read from home OR get everyone out of the house before you the read-a-thon begins. My low page count this hour is partially due to my boyfriend’s constant interruptions as he prepared to leave for the afternoon. “Sweetheart, have you seen my climbing shoes?” “Hey, are your climbing shoes 5.10s also? No, oh, then I guess these are mine.” “Have you seen my keys anywhere?” “Hm. I think we’ll be back in a couple of hours. I might get lunch while I’m out. Do you need anything?”

Gah! Do you not see the book?! The whole point of me forcing you to leave today was so I wouldn’t be interrupted in my attempts to read for 24 hours! Now get going!

Um, OK then, on to mini-challenge number two, in which we were asked to read web comics and write about our reactions to them. I chose xkcd for my web comic. I used to read this a lot and am sorrily behind on it. I love this comic because it’s clever and has a lot of funny observations about modern life and the tech generation. The guy is a mathemetician and a computer coder so some of his stuff I don’t get, but, having a computer geek boyfriend, I do get most of the stuff even if only on a very basic level.

I spent about 20 minutes reading through the archives that I’ve missed and looking for a good one to post for you all. Here’s the one I chose:

Cheap GPS

OK, so I’m a total slacker and missed the first hour of the read-a-thon. Somehow, even on this important day, I couldn’t say no to the snooze button. But now I’m up, I’m ready and I’m reading! I’ll be updating this blog every couple of hours with information on how many pages I’ve read and whatnot. I’ll also be doing the mini-challenges and other fun stuff that goes along with the read-a-thon. FYI I will only be updating this specific post, rather than adding a new post every hour. This will keep from clogging your readers, but please do check back throughout the day. It will make my heart smile in a big way 🙂

OK then, first mini-challenge:

Where are you reading from today? My boyfriend’s parents’ house in Galt, CA. I’m housesitting for them at the moment. I plan to read on the sundeck for the early morning hours (if the smoke/haze has cleared up), then move indoors to either the giant cushy bed or to the couch. I tend to move back and forth between the two as I see fit.

3 facts about me …
* I hate writing facts about me. It makes me nervous because I worry I’ll either sound boring or I’ll sound like I’m bragging.

* When I run only half of my face sweats and turns red. The other side stays cold and looks perfectly normal. I got made fun of in gym class A LOT. Now I kind of like the freakish nature of it.

* My favorite sport of all time is Rugby. I fell in love with it when I lived in Paris and I’ve never really recovered.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I have 18 books and a copy of Time magazine in my stack right now. I think I’ll finish the magazine and possibly three of the books. But maybe only two. I’m a pretty slow reader, but I’m already halfway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle so I’ll for sure finish that one.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
My goal is to read at least 18 of the 24 hours.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Um, this is my first time! My advice so far would be to NOT hit the snooze button. I’ll add to this as the day goes on and I learn more about what it means to be a read-a-thon-er.

So, starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow I will be attempting to read for 24 hours straight. It’s part of a 24-hour Read-a-thon to raise money for Reading Is Fundamental. And I’ve been reading without a cause all this time! Who knew? If you’d like to contribute to this fab cause you can do so by pledging to donate a set amount for each hour or page I read ($1 an hour for instance or 10 cents a page) or you can just donate any amount you wish (I think lowest donation amount is $10). Go here for more information on donating to the organization. I’ll be updating my book blog throughout the day on Saturday with information on where I stand. The read-a-thon starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and ends 9 a.m. Sunday. Something tells me I’ll be doing a lot of sleeping on Sunday….

Wish me luck!

Gatorade OK, I know everyone is supposed to love Gatorade. They probably have fond memories of it from when they played soccer as a kid and are brought back to that every time they take a swig of this stuff. Me, not so much. I’ve never actually really drank Gatorade before, but I thought I’d like it since it’s made by the same people who make Propel (or at least Propel is owned by them because the Gatorade label is on it). Unfortunately, I don’t have a real taste for artificial sweet stuff and the Gatorade made me whince like I had just sucked on a lemon. It took me a whole week to drink the 32 oz. bottle I  bought and by the end I could see how some people could like it.

Anyway, I thought I’d do this one in forms of pluses and minuses. So here we go:

Pluses: Gatorade comes in a powder form, which is awesome because you can mix as little or as much as you’d like. You can also make about 50 gallons of it for about the cost of one pre-made bottle of the stuff. Money saving is always a huge plus with me, in case you hadn’t noticed. Also, I’m assuming you can use less sugar in the homemade stuff if you aren’t used to drinking sweets (like me).

Minuses: You have to pay attention to how much you’re drinking if you buy the bottled Gatorade because it comes with 4 servings. At 50 calories per serving, that can add up to 200 calories (otherwise known as all of the calories you just burned!). Also, the top was too big for me to open. I’m a little girl, I can’t help it. I can’t get a good grip on it and even when I do, with sweaty hands, my hand just slips and I ended up getting cuts all over my hand from it because it’s rigid (likely to make it easier to open). And lastly, I wasn’t super inspired by the melted popsicle flavor, oh, I mean Lemon-Lime Strawberry.

I really am going to try to find something next week that I LOVE. I hate that all of my reviews so far have been a little on the negative side. I just want an after-run drink that doesn’t make me feel like I drank a bottle of sugar. Is that too much to ask?

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