October Tumblr Round-Up

"Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter." - Carol Bishop Hipps

Patagonia's Common Threads Initiative: Patagonia agrees to build useful things that last, to repair what breaks and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life.I agree to buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else.

A self-described “visual anthropologist” and social explorer, 27-year-old photographer Umair Jangda has created a remarkable series of images based on a simple, sneakily powerful concept: namely, that photographing Muslims of different ages and backgrounds dressed in both contemporary clothes and in traditional Islamic attire might well be one way to alter the perception of Islam in the West.
“After a bit of a false start with this project,” Jangda told LIFE.com, “I realized that, ironically, I needed to show the stereotype [of how Muslims appear to Western eyes] in order to to battle that stereotype.
LIFE.com presents a selection of images from Jangda’s work-in-progress:The Muslim Behind Islam.

"You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness." - Terence McKenna

"Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty; but learn to be happy alone." - Saul Bellow; Ravelstein 


Outcasts United

I absolutely loved Warren St. John's Outcasts United. I'm not a soccer fan but that didn't effect my interest in this story of a soccer team composed of refugees relocated to Clarkston, Georgia in the least. St. John's narrative follows the real life story of a Jordanian woman, Luma Mufleh, who resettles in America permanently after receiving her undergraduate education at Smith College in Massachusetts.

Luma finds herself down South just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in a town called Clarkston where the International Rescue Committee, World Relief, and other resettlement organizations have directed an influx of refugees from the world's most devastated and war-ravaged nations. The vast majority of these refugees belong to families that have been torn apart by the tragedies taking place in their home countries and are working tirelessly to make ends meet in a nation whose culture fails to understand, and often fails to even attempt to understand, their own. For the youth among the refugee community, however, soccer provides an outlet that most refugee parents are not so lucky to have found. It's more common in refugee communities to see games of street soccer being played than not, and this is how Luma comes to connect with young men from the whole world over.

With bottomless determination and a headstrong attitude, Luma develops a youth soccer league for the refugees. Struggling to find players who will adhere to her strict team rules, safe spaces in which to practice, and proper equipment to outfit her teams are just the first of many obstacles that attempt to thwart Luma's goal of establishing an organized, empowering, and successful soccer league for the refugee community. But Luma's endless perseverance meets with numerous rewards and successes, both large and small, that most others in her position would likely never see.

St. John's story isn't just that of a driven soccer coach, however. Luma's league is composed of three well-stocked teams, and the players' stories are just as remarkable as their coach's. Though her tough-love attitude at first serves to intimidate some players, over time the bond created goes beyond that typical of coaches and players. Luma considers her players and their kin to be her surrogate family, and her kindness and generosity toward them are in keeping with typical family behavior. From helping translate important bills to sorting out financial scams, from filling up empty pantries to coordinating discipline with mothers who can't be present to keep an eye on their children themselves, Luma runs herself ragged caring for the refugees who become more than simply players on her soccer team.

Outcasts United is a story about soccer, relocation, the struggles that refugees face, the extraordinary determination of a single woman, and the unbelievable good that athletics can do. It's composed of an array of intertwined stories with individual origins centuries old and thousands of miles apart. St. John's book is at times heart-wrenching, but ultimately inspiring.


Herbed Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is something my mother and I first tried on an unusual whim (unusual for her more so than me being the adventurous veggie-lover that I am) one day while grocery shopping a few years ago. Though it doesn't look like anything special from the outside, once this unique squash is cooked, its flesh breaks apart in such a way that truly resembles spaghetti noodles. Though the taste of spaghetti squash is mild as is the case most squash, it is the perfect edible vehicle for tons of herbs and spices.

Most spaghetti squash recipes are fairly basic because, the more you fuss with it, the more you mask those spaghetti-like qualities that make this such an endearing novelty food. I wanted to do something simple with the spaghetti squash I had on hand and was searching recipes online to determine how long I'd need to cook my squash. Emeril's recipe for Herbed Spaghetti Squash worked wonderfully for me.

I simply sliced the squash in half lengthwise (a good and sharp chef knife does the trick much better than I imagined!), put it in a pan with a bit of water, and cooked it for about an hour. Then you remove the seeds and pull out all the delicious edible flesh, which falls out of the peel like perfectly cooked ribs do from the bone into spaghetti-like strands. I popped the squash into a saute pan with butter and the last of the season's herbs, and had a meal prepared in no time. How simple is that?

For Emeril's fool-proof recipe, click here. And to admire my lovely and delightful squash dish, simply scroll down to the photos below!


Race for the Cure

Tomorrow morning myself, my father, and some.... other Baltimoreans will be running in October's annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It's an event in which people within my circle of family and friends have been participating since I was in middle school. In recent years it has become a tradition of sorts for my father and some combination of my sisters, our significant others, and myself to run as well. And as the granddaughter of a survivor of breast cancer, my connection to the illness is more than tenuous. But as a graduate sociology student, and in particular as a student of epidemiology, my increasing knowledge surrounding cancer acts as a small caveat to my participation in the Race for the Cure.

For the earlier part of the 20th century, the major causes of death were deseases which could be classified as infectious. Tuberculosis, pneumonia, measles, influenza. With short latency periods and high rates of mortality, infectious diseases primarily affected the young resulted in death or full recovery. Infectious diseases were curable but, to put things crudely, they also evoked a sort of natural selection whereby the more weak succumbed to disease while those who could build up some semblance of resistance made it through their childhoods. Individuals with heartier constitutions lived to their reproductive years and passed such infection-resistant traits on to their progeny while those who were unable to battle the disease passed away prior to their childbearing days. And for those who did survive, vaccines were created to suppress incidence. Thus deaths by many infectious diseases have been virtually eliminated.

Chronic diseases, on the other hand, are nearly the opposite of their infectious counterparts. Affecting a primarily older population, these illnesses are incurable with lengthy latency periods and innumerable causal factors. Cancer falls into this category as does heart disease, stroke, and diabetes among others. Since an older population is affected, there is little to no natural selection at work. The victims of chronic diseases are already beyond their reproductive years and have passed their genetic susceptibilities onto their children, who will find themselves affected most likely during their older age as well. Thus there is no natural reduction in occurrence over time. And many people can live with these illnesses for years, some even overcome them, but they are ultimately, by definition, incurable diseases. And this is what my whole Race for the Cure participation caveat rests upon.

I completely understand the desire to find a cure for cancer, a disease that nearly all of us have been affected by in one way or another, even if that be simply knowing someone who suffers from some form of cancer. But I also understand, now more than ever, that this effort will most likely be a fruitless one. I don't mean to be a pessimist or nonbeliever, but by its very definition as a chronic illness, cancer is incurable.

On the other hand, I think efforts to improve the quality of and extend the length of the lives of people with cancer are more realistic, beneficial, and efficient goals. Even better yet would be to see some true devotion to prevention of cancer and other rampant chronic illnesses. Our society places so much attention on treatment after the conception of disease when more of our focus must be devoted to prevention efforts to offset if not entirely avoid conception. There are innumerable things that we can do on both social and individual levels to make our environment, our homes, our families, and ourselves less ridden with chronic illness. Organizations like Breast Cancer Action, about which I posted a few months back, are turning the spotlight onto the perpetrators of our increasingly carcinogenic world. Rather than searching for a cure that may never be found, their efforts are directed at changing the world we live in so as to stem the tide of cancer-causing environmental factors.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation and its Race for the Cure events are truly remarkable. They stand as testaments to the power of excellent advocacy, fundraising, issue framing, and more. But imagine how different our world would be if those eponymous pink ribbons represented (and if all their associated products funded) not the search for a cure to end breast cancer but the effort to research and develop preventative techniques and lifestyles. Or what if millions of people across the United States participated in 5k runs and walk-a-thons to fundraise for solutions to problems more achievable, such as hunger and homelessness. Social ills near and far require time and money to curtail. If these problems, including genocide, human trafficking, and starvation, were the cause behind fundraising events as popular and wide spread as the Race for Cure, think of where our world could be. Maybe it's because they simply aren't relatable to middle class Americans or maybe people don't have a proper understanding of the scope and reality of these life-or-death issues. I just can't help thinking of the multitude of dire causes that need just as much, if not more, attention as breast cancer.

Despite my various misgivings, I still enjoy participating in the Race for the Cure. Though the true aim is to find a cure for breast cancer, the event is also ripe with celebrations of womanhood, community, health, and more. Sponsors such as Panera Bread, Yoplait, and others come out in droves to support participants, provide free food (Panera's pink ribbon bagels are quite the draw for me!), and demonstrate their endorsement of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. People find unbelievably creative ways to bring pink into every last facet of their outfit while others list the names of victims of breast cancer in whose names they are running. The race is far more than 5k and this is, I believe, one of its true strengths. Though I wish this type of attention and fanfare could be redirected to more realistic and practical goals, I love to see people so rallied up about something in which they believe and for which they truly care. It gives me hope that, when messages are delivered in compelling, inspiring, and unavoidable ways, they have the capacity to do unlimited good. And it is this aspect of the Race for the Cure that keeps me running and allows me to hold out hope that the call for preventative policies and actions are not far behind the search for a cure.



Once is the sort of movie that will never ever leave me. Within the first five minutes of viewing the film in the theater, I knew that I would be irrevocably affected by what was playing out on the screen before me. That may seem a bit dramatic and even presumptuous to say, but I can't think of a more accurate way to describe how it feels to think back to the very first time I watched Once.

If you haven't a clue what movie I'm talking about, skip ahead to the trailer at the end of this post. Basically it's an independent boy-meets-girl film with a musical spin. Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish band the Frames, plays the unnamed male lead while Czechoslovakian newcomer Market Irglova portrayed the girl. While Hansard spends his days performing popular covers on his battered old guitar in the middle of the busy town square, Irglova sells novelty items to tourists in the same commercial section of Ireland. Irglova finally approaches the talented music man late at night after hearing him play one of his most beautiful originals "Say It To Me Now." Her perfunctory line of questioning and abrupt manner of conversation are initially a turn-off to Hansard. But their subsequent interactions turn him further and further on to this magnetic girl's charms, especially once he discovers her musical prowess on piano.

The two make music together and adventures ensue. Both of their histories, romantic and otherwise, are slowly unveiled and the seemingly simple outcome of a typical boy-meets-girl scenario looks increasingly unlikely. But set to the entire story is an outstanding soundtrack of original music. It's hard to classify the film as having either a soundtrack or a score - the songs contained therein are central to the story itself as in a musical but are more akin to tracks than a standard score. No matter how you look at it, the way in which music, in particular Hansard and Irglova's songs, is woven into the film makes Once as stunning as it is. My major impressions upon leaving the theater were of incomprehensible beauty, songs so gorgeous that I wanted to cry, cheesy as that may sound. It is exceedingly difficult for me to accurately describe them because they are so wonderful, but that is why this is a must-watch film.

For about a year, Mike and I were without our DVD copy of Once. We generously donated one of our very favorite films to our close friend Evan. Being kind and forgiving people, we didn't get upset with Evan for forgetting to return to us our most prized DVD on the innumerable occasions he had to do so. But when Once was finally returned to our hands, we both fell in love all over again and watched the movie at least three times in the span of a single week. We didn't realize just how special the movie was to us both and how universally appealing a film it is. There isn't a single person I've recommended Once to that has come back anything less than grateful, a raving fan, and ecstatic at having been introduced to Hansard and Irglova's world. I hope that the trend of thoroughly satisfied viewers holds true for any readers out there who get their own hands on a copy of Once.


Weekly Recap

En route to a wine stomp with my family on Sunday, we stopped at a plentiful roadside farmer's market with pumpkins, gourds, and squash galore!

My little sister Leanne got into the spirit of the fall season!

I got a huge haul of sweet potatoes so we've been eating them non-stop this week. My favorite method is sliced, sauteed, and enjoyed atop a salad of mixed greens and dried cranberries.

On a trip into Baltimore to see my friend Bilqis this weekend, we stopped at Patterson Park's observation tower which offers stunning views of the city. Apparently the tower is only open Sunday mornings during the spring, summer, and fall, so we were especially lucky to make it in without any prior planning!

Dangerously Delicious Pies offers a delightful pie known as the Mobtown. Pecan pie buried beneath a thick and decadent layer of chocolate ganache, it's pretty much my favorite sweet treat. Since they failed to deliver when we ordered pies for my birthday a few weekends ago (how a pie shop runs out of crucial ingredients for orders placed days in advance without letting the customers know is still beyond me), Mike and I decided to make our own modified Mobtown. A store-bought pecan pie worked as the base and Nutella made a most delicious ganache-esque topping. Mike was out of town and challenged me to save the pie until he made it home... the Nutella swirls on top are really putting my willpower to the test!


Pumpkin Munchkins

Photo courtesy The Craving Chronicles

I'm crazy about pumpkin and I have quite a thing for donuts too. I guess it makes sense that I'd gravitate toward these delicious and pop-able autumn treats! You've got to try this recipe now that fall is in full swing and pumpkin time is here! I think they'd be particularly amazing with a cream cheese glaze or dipping icing!

I'm also looking forward to making these Nutella-Filled Sugar Donuts as soon as I can. And a few Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Pancakes wouldn't hurt either. So many recipes for delicious and sweet breakfast treats are anxiously awaiting a test run in my kitchen these days. I'll be sure to report back as soon as I've tested them out!


Lunch in Paris

Reminiscent of Elizabeth Berg’s Eat, Pray, Love and Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, Elizabeth Bard’s debut book, Lunch in Paris, is a memoir of love, food, and Paris. We meet Bard as a 25-year-old Londoner, a New Jersey Jew transplant who found herself living overseas working towards a Master’s degree in Art History. Her first meeting with Gwendal, the man who becomes her husband, is at an academic conference which leads to lunch in Paris and then a long-distance courtship. Though the majority of Lunch in Paris documents the trajectory of Elizabeth and Gwendal’s courtship, the memories that define their relationship are defined by the food they ate and the city in which it all took place. 

Elizabeth includes recipes throughout her book, from ages-old family meals to recreations of dishes devoured in France’s best restaurants. She offers simple and quick comfort foods as well as more traditional, labor-intensive French fare. But in addition to food, which certainly plays a vital role in Bard’s life, especially once she officially moves to Paris, the book is about intercultural relationships and offers a running commentary on the vast disparities between French and American mentalities. Elizabeth discovers that she holds onto a largely unrealistic and very American sense of optimism, while Gwendal is used to being told that he shouldn’t pursue his dreams, that he needs to keep a firm grasp on reality. Pursuing a friendship in France is a timely endeavor that tries on one’s patience. People rarely pick up friends outside the social circle they formed in school and are much less open in conversation with outsiders. The American meal is excessive, quick, and unbound by any sense of tradition, whereas the French dining experience is truly that - an experience. Foods and flavors are savored because only just enough, if not less than enough, is prepared for everyone. Meals can last hours while most Americans are too fast-paced to linger over a relaxing dinner for more than a single hour’s time. Bard provides plenty of interesting observations that made me question my own value system. Certain American ideals have become so ingrained in my psyche, such as our value we place upon work and achieving some modicum of success, that it is hard for me to place myself within a French mindset and relax, linger, and let happiness be my guide. Nonetheless, there are plenty of things to admire in the French, and for me, their food culture is the most enviable of all. 
And of course, it’s also a story about love. There is the inexplicable and incomprehensible way that Gwendal, a man from an entirely separate culture and a drastically different set of life experiences, fully understands Elizabeth, often knows what she wants better than she knows herself. Bard also deals with those life-changing decisions that every relationship eventually requires contemplating. Moving in together, relocating to a new city and country, getting married - to an outsider, these are seemingly natural progressions in any healthy relationship, but within the confines of this couple, these are decisions that must be poured over, considered, and never decided upon in haste. Lunch in Paris offers both an intimate look at the specific romance between Elizabeth and Gwendal while also sharing in the universality of love, the common outline of experiences that all lovers go through by virtue of sharing their life together, though the specifics may vary.
All in all, Lunch in Paris is a delight to read. Full of the rush of new love, the delight of painstakingly prepared French cuisine, and the charm of Paris, Bard’s first attempt is a lovely and delicious winner.


We Are The 99 Percent

I just came across this great blog on Tumblr called We Are the 99 Percent. In response to the Occupy Wallstreet movement, citizens from across the country have written testimonials about their experiences with the economy, student loans, mortgages, medical bills, unemployment, and the like. The authors take self portraits of themselves holding their handwritten stories which are posted on the Tumblr page.

I came across one of these photos and soon found an hour of my night consumed reading these people's experiences. Some of them ring awfully familiar, others have brought me to the verge of tears, and still more have detailed my worst fears. Despite the awful political and economic conditions which have made such a blog possible, reading this Tumblr does give me hope. The sheer number of people who have shared their experiences, who have reached rock bottom but still count themselves blessed or lucky, who recognize how unsustainable and precarious our national situation is, and who realize that the American dream is no longer within reach gives me reason to believe that change is imminent.

The Occupy Wallstreet movement is a peaceful, powerful, and essential one that I fully support and hope to in some way participate in when it makes its way to Baltimore. Reading these narratives from the 99%, and even a few from advocates belonging to the 1%, I can't imagine how things could possibly persist as they are without any movement toward change. In a world where so many individuals have followed the correct path, worked hard in school and beyond, and done right the whole time but still find themselves unable to make ends meet, worried about their survival, and unable to provide for their families, there is no conceivable future without change.

Even if 99% of our nation's people don't possess the degree of economic power they have rightly earned, their voices are another source of power that is proving impossible to ignore.


Weekly Recap

Louie's guilty face gets her out of so much trouble.

Fall is in the air!

A few pretty shots around the garden of the house I've been sitting.

A typical housesitting morning - tea, a book, and the great outdoors.

More shots of the garden. I love the little hairs on this guy.

I've had some bad luck with shoes lately (three pairs have suffered significant damage in the past month!) so I finally got myself a pair of TOMS and I am positively loving them!


Cuban Black Bean Soup

As an undergraduate, I briefly dabbled in the hospitality program at my university in the hopes of attaining a culinary education without losing out on the college experience. My tenure as a major in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management was quite short lived but I stuck around long enough to take a basic cooking course which I loved. We didn't really learn specific techniques so much as prepared recipes for three hours a day once a week, then enjoyed our creations together. It got to the point where the professor offered us a lot of freedom and we kept returning to rainy day comfort foods like grilled cheese and tomato soup.

One of my favorite recipes from the entire course was a Cuban Black Bean Soup. Prior to the course, I never considered myself a fan of black beans, nor much of a soup connoisseur. But one taste of this delicious and flavorful soup and I was hooked. Though it can be a bit labor intensive (mostly when it comes to the clean up since a food processor or immersion blender is required), the results are definitely worth whatever effort it takes. 

Black beans make the base of the soup, as the name implies, but the real dynamic flavors come from diced red pepper, ground cumin, and fresh oregano. Warm and smooth, this soup is hearty enough to eat on its own or with a little bit of cheese, toast, or a sandwich. Even if you don't consider yourself a huge black bean aficionado, I highly recommend giving this soup a try. It's a surprisingly appealing dish that, though not necessarily appetizing to look at (which is why there aren't any pictures to accompany this post), is great to make in batches for freezing and enjoying all fall long. 

Cuban Black Bean Soup Recipe


  • 6 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, de-seeded, ribs removed, diced
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place beans, broth, and bay leaves into a pot. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  2. In a saute or fry pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Place the peppers, shallots and onions into the pan and cook until the onions are translucent, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano, and cook for several more minutes.
  5. Add the sauteed mixture into the pot of beans. Add the sugar and salt.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and puree with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth.
  7. Adjust salt, sugar, and pepper if needed. If soup is too thick, thin with more broth or with water. Enjoy!



While driving home from work one evening, I came across WXPN's World Cafe broadcast from WXPN. I  found myself immediately smitten by the artist who was the subject of the evening's interview, a man with the most adorable Irish accent. I hurried home to figure out what band was churning out these melodic folksy sounds under voices tinged with Dublin and quickly found my answer: Villagers.

A lot of the music produced by this Ireland-based group sounds really familiar to me. Not in a tired, heard-it-a-hundred-times-before, sounds like everything else on the radio kind of way, but in a nostalgic, comforting, warm and fuzzy kind of way. They fall quite easily under the indie umbrella but, like many of the most successful artists within this genre, there is something a bit special that sets Villagers out from among the rest with all their lead singer-songwriters, college radio hype, and acoustic vibes.

I don't know too much about the group's history and can do little justice by way of a description of their sound, so I'll let the music speak for itself. All I know is that Villagers got me at least a little bit excited about music again which an exceedingly few number of artists have been able to do as of late. Enjoy!


Weekly Recap

Monday: I've been driving by this tree nearly every day for work and the excitement of seeing half of its leaves turned to bright red never lessens! 

Tuesday: Pumpkins and squash galore!

 Wednesday: I know I still have about three months more to wait until my most favorite holiday but that doesn't mean I can't start raiding the local library for Christmas inspiration! A Greener Christmas (which I posted about around this time last year) and The Farm Chicks Christmas are definitely my two favorites thus far! 

Thursday: A trip to my local craft store was crucial to my efforts to fall-ify my house! This garland was 60% off (with so many seasonal sales and coupons, you should never have to pay full price at these places!) and adds so much autumnal cheer to my living room. Plus I can use it year after year after year!

Friday: These little owl candles are another favorite fall touch of mine! I'll probably never burn them because they are just too adorable as they are!

Saturday: Mike and I went to see the new movie 50/50 on Saturday morning (all movies are only $6.00 per ticket before 12:00 noon on the weekends at AMC theaters!). We'd both been looking forward to the film and were extremely pleased by how entertaining, touching, and hilarious it was. 50/50 was everything you would hope it to be - funny without being completely insensitive and heartwarming without crossing the line onto the overly sentimental side. I highly recommend seeing this one soon!

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