Sunday Free Write

Levi's Rainbow
Levi and his class painted rainbows recently. Levi’s art has improved so much over last year.

When I was in high school, taking Creative Writing, we would do free writes, for two minutes, at the beginning of every class. Mrs. Gress posted a question on the board and we had to spend two minutes, without stopping, and just write. One of my favorite topics involved what type of tattoo you would get. Not, if you’d get a tattoo, but if you were forced into a tattoo what would you get. I chose a rose, on my ankle. When I finally got my first (and only) tattoo, it was a rose, on my left shoulder-blade.

But, the idea behind the writing was the butt-to-chair mentality  Just do it. Don’t over think it. Let the words spill out across the page. In modern times, it’s let the words spill out across the screen.

Okay, that was good for maybe a minute of writing. I had to walk away, start the tea, put the laundry in the dryer, and well – anything to get warm.

It’s December 2nd. Naturally, it’s raining. The large rainclouds have bathed the entire Pacific Northwest in green. It’s actually surprising that we’ve had as much sun (two mornings in a row!) as we’ve had.

Now I have tea, to warm my hands.

I have nothing that seems significant to write (see the 15 minute post about why). So, instead, I will lament on these silly old computers I keep using for personal and work. This laptop, for example, is likely 5 years old. The CD Player doesn’t recognize discs, so I can’t upgrade the software, which has been getting buggy. The hard drive has had a few check-error messages — but unfortunately, I can’t afford my dream (13″ Macbook Pro, post 2009). I long for the day when my phone and my personal computing device will talk to each other in a way that things made by the same manufacturer should.

Tomorrow, the work week begins again. There were some things I should have done two weeks ago but ran out of time. Now, I’m running out of time to secure these things. I have difficulty asking for help. I’m not sure why. Partly, everyone else is busy. Partly, I forget and work on certain priorities. Then, over the weekend, I’m reminded of these other things. I am dissatisfied with work — not the organization’s goals, rather my pay scale and my job title. I want $10,000 per year more than what I make. Yet, I don’t have a good understanding of what the powers that be would expect. When I hear about other salaries and responsibilities, I reasonably know that what I am asking isn’t unreasonable – but I lack the confidence to … ask.

Holidays are coming up. This year, we’re doing a name exchange with the cousins. The cousins being my nieces and nephews. Levi drew his cousin Owen’s name. We have the gifts purchased. Now we need to wrap and send. I have a book for my mother that I need to send off. And, lastly, just figuring out what we’ll get Levi and each other. I’d like my husband to get an iPhone. However, we don’t have the ready funds and I’m not ready to hear him complain about an “over priced piece of junk” even though we both know he covets it.

And, here we go. Over 550 words. I shall close. Hopefully this re-pattern of writing will get the more thought-provoking phrases rolling.

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We’re Getting Old: I’m Getting Old

Salmon Dinner

Our dinner consisted of 1 of the last 2-2 lb salmon fillets from Ilamna, fresh roasted asparagus from ProFarm, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend.

This realization does not come lightly. I have consistently resisted this thought. I’ve fought against it. I’ve argued it. I’ve stated that age is a state of mind. I continue to believe that life must be celebrated, not dreaded. But, slowly, in my 34th year, the realization has set: I am getting old.

There is something about 34 that rings differently to me. It’s one step closer to 35. Something about 35 is so close to 40. Those I know who have crept past 35 show their age in different ways. Some show it in their eyes. Some show it in their calm demeanor. Some show it in their resignation. Something about getting close to 40 that sets the perspective wheels in motion.

Today, it was technology that set off the thought. This thought has percolated since my birthday. I segment my 30s in threes. Between 30 and 33 it’s the first bit, the early thirties. 34 to 36 is the mid thirties. This is followed by the latter thirties with the age range 37-39. And, after 39 is 40. And, shouldn’t we have it all figured out at 40? I’m nearing half way through my 34th year. It’s another year of introspection, and today I was considering technology.

I don’t want to learn anymore technology. (More or less says the gal with the iPhone who covets a new Retina Macbook Pro and wants to integrate her house on the cloud with a dream kitchen of touch screen recipes perhaps sequenced into the stove.) I’ve mastered countless databases. I’ve learned expert levels of Word and Excel. I could navigate any Windows system (XP and earlier) like counting freckles on the back of my hand. I could trouble shoot any system to the awe of the computer frightened, walking in like the Savior to rescue a mis-saved document.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

And, while I was considering this, with whatever technological gizmo that set off the thought, it occurred to me that I am old. I’m tired of the fast pace whizzing by. I am tired, and I can’t keep up. I want routines (4p dinner anyone?) and consistency so I can just work on what I want to work on. No longer do I care about the next new thing. No longer am I impressed with how fast our cloud-based app world moves. I am complaining about the speed of life, like an old person, so that must mean I am old.

My son has admitted that I’m old on a few occasions now. So, that gives further credibility to the claim.

And, then tonight, my friend pontificates over dinner the difference between smoking and Facebook. That’s right, she argued that Facebook has supplanted smoking in after-dinner routines (as I uploaded my dinner pictures to Facebook). She queried, “What? Are we so bored with our friends that we must look to our technological gadgets to entertain us?” Certainly not a new argument. I enjoyed the cigarette comparison where we are giving our idle hands something to do. But, “No,” I eventually countered. I think it’s just that we’re getting old. (My Facebook upload aside.) We are older so we can sit longer and be quiet longer. It’s these young kids (the person in question is 26) who need constant entertainment to grab them. They have not been thoroughly, or properly, introduced to quiet mediations and the importance of silence in conversation.

Yes, I think it is simply that we are getting old. And, you know, I’m finally okay with it.

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Tuesday, May 22nd

2,011
Birthday Cupcake Ideology (Photo credit: alexis22578)

I have moved the computer to the kitchen. One light bulb is out, and the orange glow in our soon to be outlawed incandescent lights is disturbing my visual field. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. The floor still needs to be mopped. We have grocery bags that don’t have a great home, scattered among the chairs. Levi is in bed, whining for his squeezy bottle.

Tonight was one of those interesting parental evenings, where the child needs some semblance of attention and is manifesting that want in ways that are not comprehensible to the parent (me).

I picked the child up from school tonight, thankful for a low traffic night in this resurgence of rain and 60 degree weather. He was waiting, coat on, backpack on. As soon as I got to the door he was there with his teacher. A far cry from the night before where I could not find them. They ran an errand just as I arrived. Mind you, I was pushing the 6:00 clock pick up with my 5:58pm arrival. (I’ve been sick; I was trying to nap.) So, tonight, arriving twenty minutes earlier, they were ready for me in more ways than one.

The child was fairly pleasant. He removed his backpack immediately upon my arrival, claiming he now needed to get his snack. (I usually let him get it out after we get settled in the truck.) This was an amusing feat, regardless, for myself and his two teachers. I signed him out, and we resettled his backpack.

All was chipper.

We were low on a few grocery items that I don’t procure from my buying club (cheddar cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pasteurized milk, deli meats), so we ventured en route to the nearest grocery store.

The child continued with his chipper, playful, obedient mood. All this, to the pleasure of his mother (me).

We have an uneventful trip at the crowded grocery store, collect our items, and a new toy, and head out. The grocery store trip was accompanied by the 5-year-old being able to ride on the cart (in ways store staff don’t always approve) most of the trip. I was comfortable with this mode of transport as it 1) let me know where the 5-year-old is always and 2) kept him occupied in a pleasant way. All tactics aid to keeping the 5-year-old chipper, avoiding meltdowns, and allowing said child to remain obedient. All these things make mother pleased.

Once we are loaded into our car, backed out of the parking light, where full-trendy-grocery store parking dances commence (the car next to us pulls out, another pulls in, we pull out, another pulls in behind us, while dancing around drivers who quickly turned to pedestrians whilst navigating said parking lot and dance), and on the road — I tell the 5-year-old what’s for dinner. It goes something like this:

“So, when we get home, we’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Okay?”

“Ooh, and I can have gold-fish crackers too!” replies the now excited 5-year-old.

“Yes! You can have gold-fish crackers with your grilled cheese sandwich.” I assure the 5-year-old, relieved that tonight, we can forego the nightly dinner argument.

Fast forward to being home, having groceries put away, the 5-year-old watching a Barney-Thomas the Train-Bob the Builder DVD on loan from the library, me grilling the sandwiches away. (Mine is more gourmet adorned with the deli meat and swiss cheese).

Note: Our microwave broke several weeks ago, beyond repair. We are down to a puny heel of bread. I brought two, very frozen loaves up from the deep freeze. They are now (3 hours later) thawed to a usable stage.

I let his small, grilled cheese sandwich cool, cut in half, on a plate while mine finishes. I mention to the 5-year-old that his grilled cheese sandwich is nearly done. I will even let him eat in the living room. (I don’t want arguments. I want easy dinner time which should transfer to easy bedtime.)

I hear no reply and mistake (yes, mistake) that for continued acceptance of before mentioned and vetted dinner menu. The gold-fish crackers have already been consumed.

The 5-year-old walks to the kitchen. The 5-year-old notes that these are indeed grilled cheese sandwiches.

“But, I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Grilled cheese is too dirty!”

Get it? Grilled cheese is toasted, crumbly bread, after it is grilled appropriately. It makes more crumbs than a fresh loaf of bread (one that is not available due to our no-microwave-fresh-from-the-freezer-state of bread).

I insisted that this indeed for dinner. After a 10-20 minute whine-fest in his room, the 5-year-old comes out. (The rule is that the living room and kitchen are more or less “happy zones”, any other inconsolable fit must be had in his room. He is allowed to return when he is in a better mood. We have found this to be a good tactic toward self-soothing.)

He says, “I can eat the grilled cheese sandwich in the living room, right?”

Ah, the life of a parent. It’s never-ending, unpredictable roller-coaster ride of developing minds.

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Community Coaching

Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of the Good Gov...
Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of the Good Government (left view, detail) - WGA13485 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I had the opportunity to tell my buying club’s story to another buying club. This new buying club just started. They had only completed only two buys and were working on their third.

Levi and I joined them while they were debriefing after their second buy. They are meeting weekly, by the sounds of it. It was amazing to hear this group figure out problems from the beginning. A diverse group (in age, gender, and ethnicity), they were drawing from a diverse set of experiences. Clearly a smart group, it was fascinating to watch as they respectfully deliberated.

I’m not sure they really knew what I had to talk about, but I knew what I wanted to talk about, so I began by describing, from my buying club’s perspective, Buying Club Best Practices.

In Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government, he pictorially describes the perfect, healthful balance of farm to city – and its opposite. When there is harmony between farm and city, managed by good governance, there is peace and health in all the lands. The city can give intellectual stimulation and arts while benefiting from the healthful countryside.

While “educating people on the importance of a sustainable society” and “bridging the gap between farm and city”, how can I help? I can share my buying club’s story. No, it’s not over, but we’ve done a few things, problem solved, and continued to evolve and get good local food. If I really want to help bridge the gap between farm and city, one way I can do that is by sharing our story so others can make new and more interesting mistakes and not the ones we’ve already made!

So, I shared. I skimmed through my notes, eliminated a few slides, and fast tracked towards lessons learned.

I was amazed at how enthralled this group was. This group, who likely didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to say were on the edge of their seats. It was amazing and empowering for me.

Are you in a buying club? What are your lessons learned?

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Monday, May 14: Spreading the Food Word

Mommy & Levi
Mommy & Levi (Photo credit: alexis22578)

Tonight, I had the opportunity to discuss buying clubs with a newly formed club. They were focused, enthralled, and concentrated on every word I said. It was like I was telling a beautiful fiction they’d never heard, simply focused on everything I had to say. And, to think, I wasn’t even sure on the intent of my being there once Levi and I got there.

A friend mentioned to me a few weeks ago that people in her neighborhood were starting a buying club. Connecting the distance between the city and the farms which we depend on is important to me. So, if there’s an opportunity to chat with people about buying clubs, I take it. I offered to chat, and my friend made the connections. She told me the time of the meeting, and I told her when I could be there. I neglected to ask if there was a standing agenda or how much time I’d have.

We didn’t make it by 6:30pm. We made it by 6:50pm. They were gracious and encouraged us to sit and listen. Us was of course me and Levi. Unfortunately, there were no other kids. When there are no other kids, Levi gets quite excitable. That is, he gets rambunctious because he’s not getting the attention he wants.

Suddenly, the door to the room adjacent opened and an older gal gave a 5 minute warning. I understood that to mean 5 minutes until we had to leave. Now, I was questioning why I was there. Why did we bust our bums to get out there, 30 minutes away from home, to not share any knowledge with a bored 5-year-old who wants attention?

The organizer must have noticed my grumpy face because she clarified the agenda for me. It was 5 more minutes of the separate groups and then the groups got together to debrief together. Perhaps, I considered, my time wasn’t wasted after all.

They debriefed and started finishing their debrief, at which point Levi told me he had to go to the bathroom. So, we went to the bathroom. Naturally, this was a longer visit. Finally, we emerged and everyone was quiet. And staring at us! The organizer told me they were ready! I quipped we had good timing. Now, I was relieved that we hadn’t got there at 6:30pm. We’d have waited an extra 2o minutes… twenty minutes longer than we already waited!

I still wasn’t sure what they were expecting, so I simply went from what I planned on saying. I began by introducing myself and why I was invited to come, my connection to the group through a mutual friend. I checked my assumptions that the group was newly formed and had only completed a few buys by asking the questions to the group. I stood up the whole time.  And Levi literally ran circles around me. I had my notes. I had culled through my notes after listening to them talk. They didn’t, for example, need a rehashing of why buying clubs are necessary. They are living why.

So, I talked. I talked about what we do, and how we do it. I was flying through my notes. Occasionally instructing Levi to be calmer. Suddenly, a gal in the back said, “Wow, you have a lot of really rich information.” Oh! This is my time check. How long have I been talking? How long did I have? It didn’t really matter. It was 8 o’clock, and people want to go home. So, I passed out business cards and gave a sample of my presentation. Then, chatted with various people in the groups. We’ll have more meetings. Must get them invited to the buying club get togethers!

The point is bringing the city closer to the farms. Or rather, the farms to the city. Good governance is the mission, and through food. With everyone so enthralled and so excited – it is within reach.

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Sunday, May 6th

Okay narcissistic rants aside – I do enjoy writing every day. As the (over written?) introvert, I do better when I can process. Writing allows me to process.

But, what to process? The never-ending balancing act and working towards my deemed purpose.

I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. So, I’ve picked volunteer projects, paid jobs, reading material, and seminars to support that idea. I’ve started endeavors to support that idea. Every choice I make tries to support that idea.

My thinking on what I should be doing with my life has always been ongoing. Growing up Catholic, there is a certain amount of time dedicated to thinking about listening for God’s calling. I never felt like I had one. I only knew to follow my interests. My interests have always been consistent in the environment and education. When I was 18 and a freshman at Michigan State University, a first year at James Madison College eagerly awaiting my studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, I thought maybe I would or could be a lobbyist. I’d lobby for the virtues of the environment or education. I thought maybe I’d need a law degree, which always has intrigued me.

Then I got a bunch of loans through two universities, and suddenly spending more money I didn’t have on law school didn’t seem so important. In between those two universities, the school of life focused my studies on environmental thought, food, and community building. Those themes coalesced at Portland State University with the opening of their Sustainable Urban Development minor. My studies then concentrated on geography and urban development. Two themes where I continued to think about food, people, and how to make it all work together.

Is it any wonder then that I work intimately with a food buying club that focuses on local food sustainability and an environmental nonprofit that guides its thoughts in stewardship? One of my parting studies introduced me to the concept of “servant leadership”. It’s this idea where you lead from behind. A great example is how I stopped arguing with my husband about what to have for dinner and just focused on whole foods, home cooked foods, and organic foods (as budgets allowed). Now, he tells me the virtues of the food we eat.

Each refocus can be identified by a shift in thinking and impatience with the day-to-day. Like when I finally graduated. I had spent so much time thinking about my degree, that when I finally got it all I wanted was to put all those studies into action and work towards some semblance of a career. Then, there was the (housing) crash of 2008. Just one month after I graduated. I was loathe to apply for just any job – I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So, I focused on environmental jobs. I applied to be program coordinators and managers. I tried for AmeriCorps jobs. I tried for a plethora of administrative jobs. I had interviews. I had second interviews. I applied for more than 300 jobs in three years (starting in 2007).

I get a job. And, well… it proves to be more or less as dysfunctional as the twenty some jobs I held in my twenties. So, maybe working for others doesn’t work for me. I don’t get their lack of vision. I don’t get their lack of leadership. I don’t get their in ability to properly facilitate meetings. (Meetings that could identify vision and leadership and focus the organization past dysfunction!!)

These weeks of not writing have been thinking about all of that. It’s been spent thinking and doing the day-to-day, just to get by. It’s been pondering how to fix the rut and get into a career. I think I have some ideas. Now, to put them into action.

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Inherited Collaboration

It’s all my mother’s fault. Seriously. Who else should I blame but her? She’s the one who drilled it in us [me], especially as we grew up and participated in sports. Yes, my desire for ground up planning; my desire for collaboration; my desire for fair teams — I blame this all on my mother.

I find myself, often in a few of the circles I travel, advocating for collaboration. I feel like I’m often asking people to slow down, consider other view points, seeking out the dissenters in order to move a process and hear their concerns. I often find myself planning for things where it doesn’t include a “star” of the team because I understand life happens and the team is nothing if it can’t function without a member.

I’m leery of sounding arrogant here. I’m leery of sounding like I’m always a team player. I’m leery of sounding like I don’t fight to get my way. Because, I do these things. I’m not always a team player, and sometimes I do fight to get my way. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I even close myself off to the other opinions I crave in other situations!

Seeing the trouble my arrogant methods sometimes yield, and seeing the solidification of consensus based decisions proves to me the preferred way to make decisions. I also grew up in a big family. A family that, when brought together, talks over one another and sometimes you have to shout to get your voice heard. I’ve been the one waiting and waiting to be heard, and I hate that. Something about looking in from the outside, I have the ability to see when other people may feel the same way. I know that when I’m watching other people talk, I have sometimes a million thoughts going through my head. I suspect that they do to. I want to hear what they are saying. I want the others to stop talking and give space for the quiet ones.

And, I’m going to blame my mother on this. She’s the one who insisted we “walk in another’s shoes for a mile” before judging. She’s the one who insisted we think of others. She’s the one who made sure we were thoughtful in our actions. She’s the one who ensured I listened to others.

So, yes, I blame my mother that I prefer consensus. Consensus, as described when it runs well, insists that we put our whole bodies into a process. We recognize our logic, our ration, and our emotion. We acknowledge these pieces to our brain (our bodies) as a whole. We are called to hold these pieces and give space for them, to allow for better decisions all around. We are called to think outside of ourselves, using our knowledge and experience, and consider choices that are best for the group. We are called to let self-interest rest and bring our self-less selves into the process.

Instead of blame, Mother dear, I thank you.

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A Day in the Life of….

We went to Hopworks for dinner tonight. Yum.

The Basic Burger & Fries
The Basic Burger & Fries
Levi enjoying his fries
Levi enjoying his fries

I went for a walk at work. I discovered a new sculpture in a park I’d never been.

Lunchtime Exploring
Lunchtime Exploring

Peter bought a big wrench.

Levi & The Big Wrench
Levi & The Big Wrench

We discovered Walgreen’s has a car charger.

Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
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To Have Hope

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Image via Wikipedia

Climate change is happening. We can attempt to deny it. We can go along with the conflict among politicians and in the newspapers. We can close our eyes to it. We can say “weather is weather” when we look at a balmy January day when it should be 20 below. Climate change — global warming — is happening. No matter what we say to console ourselves doesn’t change the trend that 98% of the scientific community accepts as fact. Our world is warming and places are already being affected. Recently, the Oregonian published a map put out by the USDA. The USDA is redrawing their garden zoning maps to more accurately reflect current temperatures. The caption lightly explains warming, but also attributes the change to better mapping software! So, I put a flippant comment on my Facebook page that got its own attention from my friends. One didn’t realize I was being sarcastic. Another responded with his own, appropriately, flippant remark. Finally, a family member expressed her own frustration with how we glaze over this very serious problem. As a follow-up, I posted a link to a three-year old Scientific American article that showcased ten places that in 2008 that were clearly affected by climate change. Some of the listed places include:

Darfur

Until the rains failed in Darfur, the region’s pastoralists lived amicably with the settled farmers. The nomadic herders grazed their camels on the rocky hillsides between the fertile plots and fed their animals on the leavings from the harvest….[More]

The Gulf Coast

Climate scientists may still be debating to what extent climate change is going to translate into stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but insurance companies aren’t waiting for the final answer….[More]

Northern Europe

The warming of the globe has so far generally been good for the world’s wine. It has allowed the fruit to come off the vine richer and riper. A study led by Gregory Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., and the son of a winegrower, tracked the impact of rising temperatures between 1950 and 1999, using as a measure of quality the values by the auction house Sotheby’s, which rates wines on a 100-point scale….[More]

Great Barrier Reef

Not all the carbon dioxide we emit contributes to atmospheric warming. More than a third of what we have produced since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid….[More]

In recent years, no less than four Alaskan communities have been forced to relocate (Shishmaref, Kivalina, Shaktoolik and Newtok) due to climate change. Waters are rising. Temperatures are rising. Plants and animals are migrating, and now people are migrating too. These communities are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the ones screaming to the rest of the world, “LISTEN! Climate change is happening! It’s happening to us! Now!”

But now we’re not listening. Collectively. We are stuck in group think, not embracing our group wisdom. Collectively, what can we do? That was the question that was posed to me. So, here’s a short list.

  1. Don’t lose hope. But realize that people will only change when they want to. So, while not losing hope, stay the steady course.
  2. Lead by example. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then do it all over again, and better.
  3. Be mindful of your own consumption and aware of how this culture of things is perpetuating the problem.
  4. Realize hope in that 60% or so of Americans do recognize that there is a problem, so while the media isn’t up on what Americans really are thinking, there is a paradigm shift around us.
  5. Educate yourself, and then, educate others. Do it with compassion, and when they stop listening do it with your actions. Show people how the local organic food you create with is better than the tasteless, flavorless, nutritionless food found in the average grocer.

To have hope can be hard, but I think it’s imperative we stay the steady course. We can find solace in the Romanesque period in history where buildings became strong again when the world didn’t end in 1000 AD. We can find solace in realizing we have found lost technologies, like concrete, to make our world more solid. We can find solace in remembering that no matter how stubborn, we are one of the most adaptable creatures, and adapt we will. We can find solace in our relationships that we forge, foster, and create. Because, then, we know that we will have a network to turn to who supports our ideals of local, homegrown, homefunded communities.

To have hope, in my mind, is the only way to live. And, to have hope, is the only bottom line that will drive us when madness surrounds.

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Mmm: Chicken

I love chicken. I love roast chicken. I love roasted vegetables. Awhile ago, I found a recipe for a very, very simple roasted chicken. Since then, I have been experimenting. I have been complicating the simple recipe to yield results that I deem perfect. I’ve been playing with cooking times, weights, pots, and side vegetables.

Tonight’s compilation includes one roast chicken roasted in my cast iron skillet. It will be served with roasted vegetables roasted in a cast iron pan followed by toasted french bread.

{Vivid} Lemon Pepper Chicken
{Vivid} Lemon Pepper Chicken (via flickr)
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