This Year in the Life of your Absentee Blogger

Hi everyone!
I’ve been entirely absent from all of my blogs (and most of my social media in general) this year, so in the interest of keeping everyone up to date, I’m posting this on all my various blogs. It’s just an update, so don’t worry, I’m still working on my PhD (and excited about LIS!), planning another book, and cooking and preserving lots of food. I just haven’t actually started the book or blogged about any of that stuff (yet), but hopefully that will change soon!

This year has been really significant on a number of levels. On one level, it is the year I turned 30, a year I’ve always held in high esteem and been excited about ever since I was little (related: 30 is my “golden birthday.”) I think in some ways I expected I would finally have my sense of self figured out and in some ways I do, but I also love that one of the hardest years has also given me a chance to rediscover myself, what I love, and how much more I have to learn and see and do. Why such a hard year, you ask? Well…

The main reason this year has been significant is all the things that have happened in it. It’s been a time of major growth and reconnection with many very special and important people in my life, but also unfortunately a time of distancing from others who were not a part of that process in ways that I needed. Between the end of January and the end of October, three of my grandparents died. Every conference I’ve been to this year has been immediately followed or preceded by a funeral, so if you saw me at a conference and I wasn’t my chipper self, it probably wasn’t you! 

The last of my grandparents to pass did so three days after a dear friend, and one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met, was killed in a car crash while I was at a rare live performance of one of my favorite bands. That performance will always be in my heart for its beauty and for the joy I got to share with some other wonderful friends who I watched it with, but also because I can’t imagine a more fitting way for me to have spent Emily’s last moments besides being exactly where she probably would have loved to be. 
I also had mentioned on all my blogs an impending New York move: That was cancelled at the tail end of January after returning from funeral/conference set number one and hearing from my partner at the time that he was not interested in continuing that partnership. That was good in some ways because I still get to be friends with the person, and I get to move and plan my studies around my own schedule, but at the time there was a decent amount of hurt that went with the experience. By the time my second grandparent died, I felt like I had learned a lot, but still had a lot of learning and processing to do, but I also had a better sense of what to expect.

For all the challenges of the year though, there have been plenty of good things. I got to see both sides of my family in the same year, which is a rare treat, spend much-needed and much-desired time with all of them, and hear stories about our family’s past. I got to cook a lot of great meals alongside my friends and family, and share them with people I love. I got a new pet Bearded Dragon and still have three happy and healthy cats.  I got to tell a lot of people that I love them. I took my preliminary exam, which ended Monday, and hopefully passed so I can advance to candidacy. I got to offer support to people who needed it, and I learned more about how to be a better support to the people around me.
I got an adjuncting position teaching an amazing class at a school that has some amazing faculty, and I got to teach some incredible undergrads in my first ever face-to-face TA assignment. I got to meet new people, develop new relationships, and strengthen the relationships I have too. But I also got a chance to learn when it’s time to create distance between myself and a project or myself and a person when I feel like I’m overwhelmed or need support that I’m not finding there, and that’s huge too. And I got to re-shift some priorities, and make more time to allow myself to heal.

There’s not really an ultimate “point” to the post; no major life lesson or anything that I feel an urgent need to share, but I feel like it’s important to put this stuff out there. Many of the people I’m connected to on social media are people who I feel kinship with on some level, and I’m happy you’re all a part of my little corner of the world. And even though this year was crappy, and hurt, and I wasn’t always convinced there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, I’m glad I can take a lot of lessons away from it. I won’t ever stop missing everyone I lost this year, but I also will be better about telling everyone who’s still around how much they mean to me. 



Midwest to Southeast Beer Mustard

As many of you know, I moved from Iowa to Florida about two years ago (and moved from Colorado to Iowa about ten years before that). There are things I love about every state I’ve lived in, but one thing that sticks with me is the food. That, and the beer–I’m blessed with a habit of moving to states with really excellent beer options. Each state has its own approach to food, whether that be specialty dishes, portion sizes, food philosophies, or the influences of immigration patterns. Just as each state has shaped me in all other areas of my life, each state’s foodways, and the memories of cooking with friends and family, show up in each dish I prepare. Today, one of my awesome and inspiring library friends posted a photo of some jars of mustard she’s making, and it made me miss Iowa (where I first learned to make mustard). Armed with a Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale (not from Iowa, I know, but Michigan’s closer than Florida, right?) and one of north Florida’s specialties, Tupelo honey, I went to work.


The result is a hearty whole grain mustard with a great flavor. Using a pale ale rather than a stout keeps the flavor light, and this beer in particular balances well with the rich, floral honey. If you haven’t had Tupelo honey, it’s this delicious, thick, magical concoction that is made with the flowers of Tupelo trees, found in swamps in our area of the country. Tupelo honey is unique to this part of the country (and particularly, this part of the South), but it’s delicious enough that if you can’t get it near you it’s worth ordering online. In the spirit of buying local, my honey comes from Orchard Pond farm right here in Tallahassee (and who, conveniently, have their stellar honey for sale on their website). Make sure to use white distilled vinegar in this recipe to keep the flavors crisp–cider or white wine vinegars will overwhelm the subtle yet oh-so-important undertones of the beer and the honey. This mustard is full of flavor, but still mellow enough to go well alongside just about any food you wish. Best of all, this recipe makes just the right amount to fill a pint jar.


Midwest to Southwest Mustard

1/4 c yellow mustard seeds
1/3 c brown mustard seeds
1/2 c yellow mustard powder
2 1/2 tbsp Tupelo honey
1 c Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp finely ground sea salt

-In a medium saute pan (I used a cast iron skillet), toast the mustard seeds until fragrant.
-Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle, just enough to open them but not enough to pulverize them (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a Ziploc bag and rolling pin might work, although I haven’t tried it)
-Add the seeds to a pint jar along with all the other ingredients (honey, mustard powder, beer, salt, vinegar), and stir to combine.
-Close the lid, and let it sit in the fridge for two days so the seeds can absorb the moisture from the beer and soften.