Thursday, June 30, 2011

Building an Active Audience

Thanks to those of you who have been visiting regularly; your readership is appreciated.  I started blogging for several reasons, but one of them was to have readers for what I write.  One of the sad facts about being a poet is that very few people read poetry and while I am accepting of this as a poet, I thought I could try blogging to build an audience who may someday also read my poetry.  (Look at My Publications in the tabs above for information about my poetry and academic essays.)

I’d like to extend a special welcome to my international readers.  I’ve had readers from Germany almost from the beginning, my friend Lauran in the U.K. has been visiting regularly, and some of my newest readers are from Poland and France.  I know much of what I write applies to Americans more than Europeans (who generally eat healthier and can buy safer cosmetic products, for example), but I hope you are enjoying what you find here. 

I have a few suggestions for how to be more involved as readers of this blog.  I run an active learning classroom, where students have to get involved in the conversation, and they learn more in the process.   I encourage my students to share their ideas, assuring them that their observations and experiences make valuable contributions to our discussions of contemporary society.  In this classroom environment, they develop mutual respect for others as they realize that when they speak, others are learning from them, and when they listen, they are learning from others.  These are key elements of both feminist pedagogy and cooperative learning, two important influences on my teaching style.

I actually don’t think of this blog as a classroom, but some of the reasons people read and write blogs are to learn, to share ideas, and to converse with like-minded people.  So, here are some suggestions toward that end:

1.   When you have questions, comments, or suggestions, write them in the comment section.  I’ve seen blogs with long conversation threads in the comments area.  Maybe we can learn from each other by conversing this way.  You can also send comments directly to me if you’d rather not have a public conversation.

2.   If you like a post, please share the blog address with others who you think will like it too.  You can click on icons at the bottom of each post and in the right sidebar that enable you to share the post via e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc.  Of course, you can also share this blog address when you are already in your e-mail, on facebook, etc.  If you have conversations about this blog or my blog topics, please post these in the comments, or let me know about them.

3.   Follow this blog by clicking on the “Follow” button on the left sidebar.  If you already use the Google Reader, you can start following and see updates in the reader with a few clicks.  I know some of my readers use the reader bloglovin’; I don’t know much about it, but I assume it works the same way.  I really like seeing the most recent updates to the blogs I follow in the reader; I know immediately if there is a new post to view.

4.   You can also subscribe to this blog via e-mail; you will find an icon at the top of the right sidebar and another at the very bottom of the blog.

5.   Check back often to see what I’ve posted, especially if you have suggested an idea or made comments.  I always reply to comments, and maybe there will be a conversation to contribute to.

6.    If you also blog, link to my blog in yours.  I promise to return the favor.  My friend and co-worker Sylvia linked to my blog last week, so now I’m linking to hers as an example of how to do this.  Thanks, Sylvia!  She blogs about feminism, teaching, her dissertation topic (Spanish Literature) and related ideas at Sylvie’s Passegen-Werk.

In addition to getting you more involved as an audience member, these suggestions may also build the readership of this blog.  The more readers I have, the more we can converse, share ideas, and learn from each other.  Thanks for your efforts in this area.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Very Peachy

Several years ago, my father gave us a seedling peach tree.  Last year, we had a small harvest, but this year, we are experiencing a bountiful one.  Our refrigerator is loaded with the small blushing fruits and the recipes I’ve made with them.  I prepared for this harvest by looking for recipes and preservation ideas, and I’ve been busy the last week “putting up” our harvest.  Our peaches are a little sour tasting, but I like that.  The flesh is red near the stone; I’ve heard these referred to as firestone peaches.  

I looked for recipes that enabled me to serve the peaches without covering up their flavor with too much sugar and that were not too laborious.  Also, I wanted to serve some of them raw, to best preserve some of their nutrients, especially the vitamin C.  Peaches also have potassium, phosphorus, folate, flavonoids, and a good amount of fiber.  The carotenes (vitamin A) become more absorbable after cooking.  I also found some internet sources (do a search for nutrients in peaches) that suggested peaches have lycopene and lutein.  Lycopene is a type of carotene and an important antioxidant found only in red fleshed fruits, such as red tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.  Peaches without red flesh will not have lycopene.

I’ll write more about the cancer fighting properties of lycopene in a later post, but it is also one of those nutrients that enhances the SPF of your skin (see my post on Sunscreen Regulations).  Lycopene is better absorbed if cooked, and eaten with a small amount of fat and vitamin E, which makes almonds a good companion food for raw and cooked peaches: try bread with almond butter and peach slices.

I always adjust recipes to make them healthier, to fit my family’s preferences, or to reflect what I have on hand, so I’ll give you a few notes with the links to the recipes I have tried.  Some adjustments I made to all the recipes: I did not peel any of the fruits.  This saves time, and it gives you the benefit of the fiber and other nutrients that are in the peel.  Also, I always use a little less sugar or sweetener than recipes call for.  I’m happy to hear your suggestions or ideas about these recipes, too.  

To serve the peaches raw, I made Peach Salsa.  I left out the lime juice, honey, and bell pepper.  My peaches are juicy and I don’t like sweet salsa, but I’m guessing the lime juice would help the peaches keep their color.  We ate this on tacos and with scrambled eggs.  I also made Peach Popsicles, which are not technically raw, but they aren’t cooked.  I used only one kind of peach and substituted agave syrup for the honey; since it is sweeter, I thought the popsicles wouldn’t need the extra sweetener suggested by the recipe.  They probably would be better with more sweetener, but they were fine, though a little tart.  Also, I used chamomile tea bags (see left).  After I uploaded the image to the left, I finally found the recipe on-line, and here’s the website of the authors, People's Pops.  They make popsicles out of the fresh fruit and herbs available locally, which is such a cool idea.

I cooked a Spiced Fresh Peach Chutney, leaving out the red pepper and grating the garlic and ginger.  Unless you really like ginger, you may want to use a little less.  We ate this with plain yogurt, with meat, and as a side dish.  Dorothy, the blogger at Shockingly Delicious also has a number of interesting recipes I plan to try; I'm so glad I found her blog.  I also canned some Fruit Cocktail, which is easier than it sounds.  

Since the recipe is not specific, here is what I used: 3 large apples, 3 medium pears, and enough small peaches to have equal amounts of each fruit.  I wanted extra light syrup, so I used 5 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar.  This wasn’t quite enough to fill all 8 of my pint jars, so I added some hot water to the measuring cup that had sugar clinging to it and topped off the last 2 jars with that.  I also used 1 tablespoon lime juice per pint; this enhances the acidity, lessening the chance of spoilage.  The blogger at Mud Pies to Sticky Buns has posted many canning recipes and links to other canning sites.

My girls have liked the fruit cocktail the best; we are going through a pint a day, so next time I’ll make it in quarts.  I also used the syrup leftover after we ate the fruit to make smoothies: 1 cup kefir or yogurt, 5 small peaches, about ½ cup of syrup whirled in the blender.

You can read about what I prepared with the 2012 peach harvest here.

SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life by Steven Pratt, M.D.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Listen to Poetry

As a poet, another form of my activism is to encourage people to write, read, and listen to poetry, and to remind those who fear they don’t understand or “get” poetry that a poem can speak to you the same way that other written words do, can touch you the same way an emotional experience does, and can please your ears the way music does.  In fact, it often does all of these at once.

I’m going to promote two ways to listen to poetry, both of which are the activism and volunteer work of fellow poetry lover Fran Sanders.  After I posted about Everyday Activism, Fran wrote inviting me to record my work for her program “Poet’s Corner,” which is broadcast as part of Sight Into Sound Radio, Houston Taping for the Blind.  This is her activism, and she’s been doing it for 16 years.  Fran is also on the board of Houston’s newest reading series, Public Poetry, which has featured me as a reader (and will again in November).  We met after I was chosen to read for Public Poetry.

A few weeks ago, at the Houston Taping for the Blind studio, Fran and I recorded a thirty minute program on state of the art digital recording equipment.  I read my poems while Fran monitored my mistakes and “umms” and instantly corrected them.  They have 15 recording booths, where volunteers read and record everything from magazines to textbooks for their weekly programming and special requests.  They also have a broadcast studio where they read the Houston Chronicle live every morning, every page.  You can listen to them streaming on the internet 24/7 here (look for Listen on the right).  Those who are visually impaired can listen on free digital radios, so if you know someone who can benefit from this service, be sure to get in touch.  Also, they always welcome volunteers, so if you have some time and a desire to help others, go and talk to them.  Everyone I met over there is very friendly.

You can browse the Poet’s Corner archive here, and click on my name or another poet’s name to listen.

If you live in Houston, come check out the next installment of Public Poetry, Saturday, July 2 at 2 p.m. at Kendall Neighborhood Library, 609 N. Eldridge, 77079.  The featured poets are listed on the left, and you can read about them here.  I have attended two events and read at one; they are well organized and entertaining, starting with guest readers who show how poetry intersects with their own work, proceeding to a diverse mix of poets reading published and new work, and ending with talented young writers who will impress you.  I hope to see you there.  That way, when someone asks you, “What did you do yesterday?” you can give an unusual answer along the lines of “I went to a really awesome poetry reading and hung out with the poets afterwards.”  This will sound quite impressive to anyone who believes the myth that all poets are dead, that poetry is dead, or that no one writes poetry anymore.  Prove them wrong.

Also, Public Poetry is looking for a summer intern, and volunteers who can help out an hour a week or even once a month.  More information here.  If you’d like to help, Fran will be glad to hear from you:
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