Time to say goodbye? Only to livejournal!

 I'm getting really fed up with livejournal.  I can complain more, but why not read about it here?  Currently I'm trying to decide whether to remain loyal to this site.... or try out some other sites...starting with blogger, which I use at school. Interestingly, PM has come to the same conclusion on her own.

Wouldn't you know, this is the first time in over a week I can even type into this blog!  Well, I'll just have to, look, it even let me upload a picture!  Does it sense the competition?  (This is some new kind of instant oatmeal my neighbor Mary gave me. Less packaging, fewer ingredients, and cheap. Doesn't taste so hot, though.)
It's my first few hours of spring break!  Which I celebrated by really getting wild, doing some homework, and then watching the first episode of (the new) Upstairs, Downstairs on Masterpiece Theatre!!!  Do I know how to live it up or what?

A Journey of Ten Thousand Miles Starts With a Trip to Chicago

 We've decided to go check out Polo Marco's stomping grounds for ourselves.  Last time we did that, we ended up in Hong Kong for a week.  For some reason, that now seems almost tame.  This time we're proposing a trip to the People's Republic of China, the western version.  China requires a visa, and we needed to show up in person.... at the closest consulate... which happens to be in Chicago, a three-hour drive from here.  (And that's pretty good - what if we lived in northern Wisconsin???)  Fortunately, we seem to have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's, but we will find out for sure when/if we receive our visas in the mail in the coming week.  Of course, we had to take an entire day off from work.  In order to make it more "worth it," we made sure to have lunch at: The Chicago Diner! Vegetarian restaurants may get better than this.... but I can't think of another one I like as much.  Well, the Garden Grille in Providence.  Anyway, here is the famed CD:
Now there are plenty of restaurants in Madison that offer veg-friendly fare, but I rarely go out to eat in Madison, preferring to cook my own food.  So it was a huge treat to open the menu and have to choose among so many fabulous-sounding dishes.  In general, my rule of thumb is to order something I wouldn't cook at home, but in the end, I chose something that sounded really good and I wasn't disappointed.  Below are our lunches -- mine was the Sweet Potato Quesadilla with Spiced Black Beans, Spinach, Grilled Seitan, Cheese and Guacamole.  (I'm kind of a sucker for Daiya cheese.  I never actually buy it, so this was a draw.)  Behind it is A's Pumpkin Ravioli in a Squash Reduction Sauce and topped with Baked Apples and Onions.  (Mine was absolutely superb. His was pretty darn good.)  

Back at home, we're still doing fast food on the weekdays and "slow food" on the weekends.  For about three days we ate a nut loaf I made last Sunday.  It sort of started out like our usual Pecan Loaf, but we didn't have desirable bread for breadcrumbs, and I reasoned that when I make Lentil Loaf I use rice, and we had lots of leftover rice, so I used that instead.  And THEN I further reasoned that as long as it was starting to resemble Lentil Loaf, I ought to add grated carrots, which is what I would use, and so I did.  We served it with mashed potatoes and lima beans.  Doesn't it look all-American?
And then there was the hummus/Tofutti-better-than-cream-cheese/pickle/sprout sandwich (home-made pickles from last summer):
And the rice and dal from the freezer (not pictured).   Today it's the weekend again - how did that happen so quickly?  I had been eyeing a slow-cooker baked-bean recipe, mainly because it calls for dried apricots, and I have some of the unsulphured kind that are now hard as a rock.  And no kidding - ten hours in the crock pot and they are fine!  I used this recipe, and it tastes wonderful, but along the way I ended up doubling all the spices, adding some sriracha, and a little salt.  I will definitely do that next time.  I'll also double the entire recipe (that means quadruple the spices) to have enough to freeze/give away next time I make it.  And there will definitely be a next time!


And now a guest post from the magical land of Shangri-la

 Enjoy a peek into the world of Polo Marco!

Chinese Cats Eat Rice

Hello everyone, apologies for the long silence. This being March---and therefore anniversary of various Bad Things Happening in Western China--the internet quality this month has been sporadic and slow, which is detrimental to e-mailing and off-putting for attempting to blog. (See this article for more on China's internet these days.) I have also just gotten over having a bad case of flu this whole past week. And while 4 days of almost-total bed rest would seem condusive to wasn't. I did, however, read The Walk Across America: Part 1, by Peter Jenkins, in its entirety, and finished Chapter 1 (it was 15 pages!!) of 《许三观卖血记》, or Chronicles of a Blood Merchant, by Yu Hua. Much healthier these past few days and ready to move onto Walk Across America: Part 2, and Chapter 2 (only 2 pages!), respectively.

I wasn't too worried during this sickness, just feeling physically terrible. Colleagues taught my class for 3 days; I watched whoever and whatever passed outside the bedroom window; my waiban accompanied me to the hospital where they told me with great certainty that "probably I had the flu" and "maybe [I was] a little contagious," and proceeded to prescribe the entiry pantheon of antivirals, antibacterials, and herbal cough syrup. No, the real reason is because..... I have a kitten! A fierce, adorable little kitten named Zoe:

See how fierce he is?! um....yeah. (the basin is for me, to wash my face, etc., village-style, in the absence of still-not-running water.) Zoe even protects my computer sometimes:

A note about the name: this cat is Zoe, "Zo" for short. Which conveniently sounds like "dzo"---a yak-cow hybrid. So this xiao-mao 小猫 [cat] is now linked to mao-niu 牦牛 [yaks]. And it looks like s/he knows it!

Oh, and yes: Chinese cats really do eat rice. And it turns out that it's extraordinarily simple to buy a pig heart in Shangri-la.

On the Beach

 No, I'm not in sunny Florida, and spring break is still three weeks away.  I just can't get the book, by Nevil Shute, out of my mind.  If my memory serves, the world had just endured World War III, and everyone had died from the nuclear weapons used.  Everyone except for those in Australia.... where the residents sat and waited for the fallout to reach them.  Cheery, right?  But what's going on in Japan has left me on the edge of my chair.  I'm very sorry for the Japanese people, and worried for the world's future.
In other news,  winter is back.  We'd had pre-vernal-equinox warm days, heavy rains (with accompanying floods), and general muddiness.  

This made us unreasonably optimistic about the weather, just as it does every year.  Now March has turned on us, and we've had lows as low as 0 ... and it is currently snowing.  To say nothing of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, which had a blizzard last week.  17" of snow!  While here it just poured and sleeted.  These are times that call for comfort food, and even on really busy days, we are trying to cook from scratch.  We are also trying to buy less and use up more things.  Sometimes those two ambitions come into conflict, especially when you throw in a third: making something fast at the end of a long day.  We have a lot of carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions.  So: witness the fried-tofu sandwich with cole slaw,
the dal-and-rice soup with banana muffins, 

and the soba noodles with steamed vegetables and peanut/sesame sauce. Oops, guess I forgot to photograph that one....

Today was Saturday, and for the first time in .... six weeks? I did not go up to the Capitol.  There are other protests brewing (perhaps Monday?  definitely coming up) and although there were probably people walking around today, and I know there were bicyclists zooming around to protest the Governor's proposed cuts to bike and walking paths, it was freezing cold and I was tired and wimped out.  The wind was cutting.  Instead, I spent some time with Claudia.  We ate lunch at the Somer House in Mt Horeb, where I had the Tofu-salad Sandwich (billed as "vegantastic!")  It was pretty good!  (Photo courtesy of Claudia.)
Back at home, I made a fabulous meal, well suited to the weather.  As we sat down to eat, I realized that all three recipes had been found on peoples' blogs.  Thank you, vegan bloggers!

This is the best soup I've had in ages: "Rustic Farro Soup" from Andrea.  I broke my no-buying streak to get some fresh kale (couldn't find escarole in Mt Horeb, but this was fine) and fresh thyme.  First I had to get out the ancient diet scale I bought when I was first pregnant (because the doctor was suspicious of my diet, so I had to weigh and prove how much I was eating).  That's because the recipe calls for "seven ounces of farro," which turns out to be about a cup.

"Red-wine marinated tofu" was new to us.  Both this and the soup recipe called for wine, and I had some to use up.  So I used Lambrusco.  So sue me. This tofu was excellent. 

And finally, a really easy go-to recipe: the "outrageously easy big bread."  
Now we are full and warm, which is temporarily comforting when life gets cold, unfair, and radioactive. Spunky, who usually curls up in front of the dining-room heater, decided to join me in the kitchen because I spent so long in there this afternoon.  As usual, Spotty had to horn in on the picture.... because of course, every time I kneel down I must be about to feed her, right? 


The Pizza Revolution Begins at Home

Well, yesterday was another beautiful Saturday at our beautiful state Capitol building.
(see a link to a some great photos here.)
 A lot has happened in a week, including our wonderful Governor and all the wonderful Republican senators' treacherous moves to deny collective bargaining to state workers and bust unions, but aside from that everything is just dandy.  In fact, they did find a way, possibly illegal, to ram through the bill to do just that. That prompted some mid-week trips to the Capitol, although we don't generally stay for more than an hour or two when we go after work.  It's just good to touch base with other angry (but peaceful!) and like-minded people.

It's been a month since this whole thing started, and I can't believe that the protest movement is even stronger now than ever.  Yesterday there were 85,000 people, or 200,000, depending on who's doing the estimate and at what time of day.  By anyone's reckoning, it's a whole lot of people.  The day began with a "tractorcade" of farmers on various tractors and farm equipment circling the square, and then there was a farmer's rally.  After that, a teachers' rally/march, which I skipped to join my husband's local union chapter's march.  Oops, I think we forgot to get a permit.....

All told, we were up there for four hours.  That's a few marches around the square and a lot of standing and listening to speakers and singers.  Supportive celebrities have been coming to Madison - yesterday, Jesse Jackson asked us to take time to think of the Japanese people, which was appropriately sobering.  Tony Shaloub (a Wisconsin Native and brother of a teacher) spoke, as well as Susan Sarandon (not sure of her connection to Wisconsin, but it was nice anyway).  When we have been up there, we've been able to either buy food from enterprising food-cart people, or eat free pizza donated by supporters from around the world and delivered by a local pizzeria named Ian's.  Well, "we" don't eat the pizza, although one day I ate A's crust. And he only had it once, although so many protesters are living on donated pizza that people are starting to call it the Pizza Revolution.   This made me hungry, so today I decided to make some at home.  I was in a hurry and didn't want to go to the trouble of making some fancy cheese-alternative, so I flipped through some cookbooks and found a Parmesan-style topping in Fresh and Fast Vegan Pleasures.  Basically, the idea was to grind nutritional yeast, sesame seeds and salt together in a food processor.  Sounded easy.... and it was, but it didn't taste exciting enough.  I had once tossed some ground walnuts on a pizza, so I added some to the mix, and it immediately tasted better.  As long as I was on a roll, I added some pepitas and garlic powder.  NOW it tastes great. 

And the pizza did too!

Back in the day, when I was a card-carrying member of the New American Movement, we were fond of saying "The personal is the political."  So true, especially if you get to eat pizza!

(no subject)

 I became a vegetarian for the first time in 1971, and then it was off and on until 1976, when I left home for college and could control my meals. (and, I thought, my destiny.  whatever.) Throughout the years, I'd been happy to acquire a new refrigerator, a new stove, pots and pans.... and know they had never had any meat in them. Naturally, as a cat owner I knew on some level that we've been buying meat all these years; it was just so cleverly camouflaged in little brown pellets, it was easy to pretend it had no relation to an animal.  All that has changed.  Spunky's thyroid issues led him to avoid food, and we were going nuts trying to tempt him with anything he would possible be interested in tasting. Here he is, looking thinner and thinner.
 The vet said, "give him canned food."  So we did, perusing the supermarket shelves and coming home laden with various cans of.....beef!  Chicken!  Tuna!  Sardines!  And all kinds of luscious-sounding preparations.  There have been two major problems with this, besides the obvious *yuck* factor.  The first is, Spotty is demanding to eat whatever he eats, and at least once per day she gets some too.  (That's her on the left, getting fatter and fatter.)
 The second problem has been with Spunky.  He didn't actually WANT to eat the stuff, and had to be force-fed at the vet on more than one occasion.  Now he is on steroids for a couple of weeks, and he is eating.  For now.  We don't know whether were just forestalling the inevitable bad time, but for now that's what we are happy to do.  And as he starts eating again, I feel less guilty ever time I eat. Here's what we ate tonight:  It's Vegan With a Vengeance's Punk Rock Chickpea Sauce on mashed potatoes.   

Still Cold

 It was a cold day.  Snowing and about 15 degrees F.  It was the kind of weekend day made for staying home and perhaps baking cookies.  We did not exactly want to bundle up and drive the 30 miles to Madison to protest at the Capitol, but we did - and so did more than 70,000 other people.

I wore two hats, a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, a coat, tights, long underwear, jeans, snowpants, wasn't so bad as long as you kept walking - the immense crowd kind of shielded you from the wind.  But who wouldn't want to stop once in awhile and listen to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary?  Or (Madison native) Bradley Whitford? Or any of the other speakers.... anyway, it was important to be there.  A carried a sign from his Service Workers union, and I just carried one handed to me - "UW Teaching Assistants Deserve Rights." This rally was called by the unions but everyone was there anyway.  The issue is even more important now that it has been passed - illegally! - by the Wisconsin state assembly without giving the Democrats time to vote.  (The senators who fled the state are still in Illinois thus delaying the inevitable.  Or is it inevitable?  I'm a little cynical about our governor suddenly deciding to go back on his plan, but you never know what can happen.)

We were out in the cold for about 2 1/2  hours, and became thoroughly chilled.  When we got home, I made some spicy chili and cornbread.  I've always loved cornbread but it tends to be dry.... I've discovered the secret to moister cornbread, and that's the addition of a few tablespoons of yogurt to the batter.  (Today all I had was Silk vanilla, but that was fine.) Two bowls of chili, two cups of tea, and one mug of hot cider later, I am still cold... maybe I'll finally warm up in bed!


Brave, Brave, Brave, Brave Sir Robin.... and me....

 OK, I know I'm a sucker for pop culture references, but remember the "Brave Sir Robin" bit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  "When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled...."  Well, that song is certainly a propos today. 

I arrived in Mundelein, IL, specifically the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, on Thursday evening.  I was there to attend the annual conference of the North Dakota Study Group, which is to progressive education what the Jamboree is to Boy Scouts. It was wonderful to be with so many thoughtful and dedicated educators and writers, but also odd to have my little group the focus of so much interest.  People had flown in from across the country, and wanted to know what the heck was going on in Madison.  We filled them in as best we could: after the governor's "Budget Repair Bill" was rammed through committee, passage by the Republican-controlled  state Senate was a foregone conclusion.  But wait!  As Lisa and I were crossing state the state line, so (apparently) were all our Democratic state senators.  In a bold and probably illegal move, the senators left the state and are now in an "undisclosed location," although they appear to have been in the same area I was.  The senate cannot hold the vote without at least one more senator on the floor, and so the process is now stalled.   

More and more teachers across the state continued to call in sick and flock to Madison's Capitol building.  Madison public schools were closed, in all, for three days, and on Friday Milwaukee threw in the towel and closed. Yesterday evening, former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson came to join the marching workers and their supporters. My husband, Wingra colleagues, and even my students marched up there after school and work.  And where was I?  Discussing and learning about working for social justice in the classroom and beyond. 

Mind you, it was all stimulating and heartwarming.  But the hearts we were warming sort of ached to be here with our people.  Others at the conference felt similarly pulled.  The tipping point came this morning, when we had our keynote speech by Milwaukee teacher and founder of the Rethinking Schools magazine, Bob Peterson.  After his impassioned talk about the way our state's schools have had their budgets cut, eliminating P.E., music, library, art and language classes - and that's before our current "budget repair bill" crisis - conference participants began standing up and demanding that we not just sit there, but we should get ourselves to Madison!  Which is how I ended up driving up a day early.  In all, at least 3/4 of the participants left the conference.

Today was going to be especially important, in many peoples' minds, because the Tea Party was scheduled to hold a huge rally on the Capitol steps. (Check out the news story here.)  We missed that (due, in part, to one vehicle in our caravan getting a flat tire), but arrived in time to join my fellow Wingra teachers and families for a union rally.  I can't express how it felt to march with thousands of other people - union members who thanked me for my sign, union members and others who I thanked for their support -  around the square and right into the Capitol.  

So how was I a scaredy cat? Well, we were going to go back down to Illinois with our people, debrief and spend time discussing the moment.  But some of us, upon hearing that bad weather was predicted for our area beginning tomorrow, "beat a very brave retreat" and decided to just go home instead.  Ah well, there will always be next year....


Mount Horeb Schools are closed and it isn't even snowing!

Madison public schools were closed today as teachers protested proposed cuts to public workers contracts, and the elimination of collective bargaining for the state's unions.  For the past two days, union members and supporters have flooded the state Capitol building and rallied all over the downtown area.  A went yesterday (he's a union member), and many Wingra staff participated - after school!  As a private school, we have no union.  (We also lack the benefits public school teachers receive, but whatever.)  So school was in session!  This evening, though, as news reports keep flooding my inbox, I see that not only are Madison schools closed for a second day, but also the rural ones are chiming in.  So tomorrow, with a predicted high of 45, will be another "snow day" for kids and a day for union members and friends to continue the protest..... and Wingra is talking about closing in solidarity.  As fate would have it, if we do close I won't even be around, having arranged months ago for a sub because I'll be attending a conference. Either way this is exciting and restores my faith in Wisconsinites, which was severely tried when someone (who?????) elected our new governor, the one who is pulling this stunt with our futures. Well, you can read more about it here.   Front page of NY Times!

No recipe to go with this news, I guess, but Viva la Lucha!  And I'll be following this from the North Dakota Study Group conference in Mundelein, Illinois, wherever that is!