Sunday, March 27, 2011

Do Something New: Learn to Sew

Over the break, I thought I would take it upon myself (and my Mom) to learn to sew something. I do enjoy putting together a good outfit every once in awhile, and I think knowing I created my own clothing would present me with even more satisfaction. "Where'd you get THAT? It's so cute!" you'll ask me. "Totally made it!" I'll respond and walk away as you ponder how I could make something so fashionable. Yup. Plus, it really helps with the whole problem of "cheap labor" and outsourcing across seas, the problem that creating textiles has on the environment, you know all that fun and depressing stuff. The fact that people get paid 0.5 cents an hour to keep me fashionable will NOT be on MY conscious. Well, it will be because the problem doesn't go away just because I'm refusing to shop at Old Slavey and the Gap, but it's my contribution to a better world nonetheless. As you may know, I decided to stop buying clothing this year (which has gone moderately well with a few slip ups, but hey, I'm trying), and I figure that creating something will help me a) work for something new in my closet when I get bored, b) will help me exercise my creativity and c) was a good compromise to the whole not buying anything new thing. It seems that knowing that I worked hard to make something new will help me appreciate those who make my clothing in general. It seems to me like we're so disconnected from everything--everything from how our food comes to our table and appreciating those who put it there, as well as how our clothing makes it's way into our stores and the people who put it together. My goal (if you're really interested) to learn to sew was originally inspired by this book:It teaches you how to create your own patterns and make dresses out of reclaimed fabric from thrift stores, so it's all about being green! Great idea in theory, however my first attempt could be spelled D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. So I decided to start from scratch and under the steady guidance of good ol' mom I created THIS little gem:

Let me tell you, after hours of working on this sucker, I really appreciate those who have sewed the items I own. It fits a little weird in a few places, but I figure that just gives it character. Anyways, my goal is to keep practicing away and we'll see what sorts of creations I come up with!

Good Reads

I've recently re-discovered the joy and simplicity of reading for pleasure. I remembered back to the good ol' days when I read so many books I earned the most gold stars in my 5th grade reading competition--thank you, Baby Sitters Club series. As you can tell, my reading habits tend to be fairly schizophrenic, as I tend to read 2-3 books at a time. While my interests for pleasure still seem to be academic, here is a look into what I've been into lately (both completed books for this week as well as started ones):
Super easy read--you could read it in one sitting. Highly recommend!
Just started this one today--very interesting (though very academic) look into our relationship with food and the evolution of our American diet ( the killing us slowly...eek.) Just remember: ignorance is bliss so think long and hard before you decide to read...
See above.
Guilty pleasure. I used to LOVE both the show and the books, and I'm always a sucker for pop culture trivia.
Lots of interesting ways to save money and improve life, including, but not limited to, making your own all natural cleaning products, wardrobe essentials, ways to have thrifty fun and more!
REALLY hilarious commentary on cheesy pop culture--I'm currently reading the chapter about The Real World--and I have NOT been disappointed. **Parental advisory--do not read if you don't have an affinity for the "f" word...

Do Something New: Give Someone My Number

I haven't blogged about doing something new each week, but let's be clear--it's been happening, I just haven't been very diligent in logging what I've been doing. I've been to a political rally, belly danced, sewed a dress, tried a new cupcake recipe, but perhaps my biggest challenge to conquer was giving someone my phone number before they asked me for it. This might come as quite a shock, but I have never ever done this--I tend to be much more of a wallflower when it comes to my love life, which is a crying shame and a mountain I've been trying to climb for years. I'll admit my fear of rejection is probably somewhat comparable to how my coworker Tai feels about clowns and snakes (that is: absolutely terrified). Other people I know can waltz up to someone and say, "Hey, you seem awesome, let's get together," but not me, no sirree, and as one can imagine, my love life has been anything but eventful. When your only boyfriend comes out of the closet (xoxo love you!!!), it's time to get your head in the game. Anyways, I've had a crush on this guy at a local organic grocery store for quite some time--we'll call the store "Complete Eats" just for kicks. I first saw Complete Eats Guy a.k.a. Dream Guy at a food sampling they were doing at the store. As he handed me my small sample of Airborne (yeah, no idea why they were sampling it, but I didn't really care at that point), he began to tell me how he used to be a vegan and just as my ears perked up at the word "vegan," someone screamed, "Hey--we need someone on Aisle 5!" and he dashed off. Blast--love connection evaded. For a few months I avoided him like a nervous school girl, blushing every time I saw him in the vitamin aisle. It was embarrassing, really. This from the woman who can talk to a rock, but around this guy I was a blithering idiot. Finally we started conversing, because he noticed my recycled bottle cap ring. Why yes, I do wear recycled things for jewelry and I DO care about the earth. Methinks you should be intrigued. Our conversations began somewhat awkwardly, as once I asked him after a snowy day in hopes of striking up conversation number 2, "Uhhhh you all close because of the snow?" (Really dumb question that I knew the answer to). "Nope, we're really rain or shine around here." "Ohhh cool" (insert nervous giggle). I usually ended up walking away thinking, "Get yourself together Miller!!! You are no longer in the fifth grade!" However, our conversations invariably began to drift towards talking about important issues like poverty, Marxism, the oil crisis, socially conscious businesses, you know, typical conversations one might have in the shampoo aisle at the grocery store. Shoot--we were solving the world's problems with these discussions! I would usually come back feeling fairly self-defeated, and then Tai would invariably give me some sort of pick up line that involved me giving him my number which would leave me in the fetal position on the couch--why, why WHY can't I just do it?! It's not that difficult!!! I've done much more challenging things in my life! Statistics class! Geometry! Figuring out public transportation in Costa Rica! And I can't give someone my number!? I continued attending Complete Eats on a fairly regular basis, which was proving to become a very expensive habit. I needed to get that number or I was going to go broke, and I would not have Complete Eats benefiting from my cowardliness (not to mention Tai was making continual threats to revoke my feminist card). Finally, two months after our initial conversation, I finally decided I was going in for the kill because this was getting ridiculous. My boss sent me in to snatch up some pastries for people's March birthdays. As I walked past the cosmetics section, I spotted Complete Eats Guy. "Oh hey--nice sweater vest," he said. You like argyle?! Does it GET any better than this?! This conversation is headed in a VERY good direction. We somehow got onto another one of our delightful socially conscious conversations, and we were discussing the Civil Rights movement and he said, "Yeah, I don't understand why we don't have more holidays to celebrate female leaders." Just as I was about to swoon in the vitamin aisle, he said, "But I could talk about this all day." OPPORTUNITY IS KNOCKING, AND I, JESS, AM COMING TO ANSWER. "Well, if you want to, I'm around. I love talking about this stuff. Let me give you my number." "Okay, that sounds great--we could have coffee or something, I'll give you a call." SMOOTH MOVE. And it only took me two months to do it! I pride myself on efficiency...

It's not going to work out between us--he eventually made mention of a "lady friend" in Texas. Maybe part of the attraction was the fact that he seemed to be about one of five socially conscious men I've met thus far in my life. But nonetheless, I still put myself out there, and got out on that playing field, and maybe that's what this whole thing was really about--conquering my fear. And Tai says I can have my feminist card back.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wonder Woman!

Check this out!!! Thanks to Dr. McKinney for sharing this little gem!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feminism's early roots...

I was thinking back the other day about my "feministimony"--you testimony of how I came to be involved in the glorious movement that is feminism. Where did it begin? I NEVER would have called myself the "f" word until only a few years ago--no, that was reserved for crazy women who didn't shave their arms and hated men (don't you love stereotypes?). It was that whole "I'm not a feminist BUT" disclaimer that I hate now. You're a feminist--get over it, it's AWESOME. Anyways, upon reflecting on my journey I realized I was actually a fledgeling feminist back as early as elementary school, as was pointed out to me by my friend Rachel when we were talking about my 4th grade history class (I still don't remember how we happened upon this conversation, as this certainly isn't typical lunch room fare). I was telling her about growing up in Idaho, where you get one full year of Idaho history. You sing about that grand ol' 43rd star every morning (now that I think about it, the indoctrination that was seemingly occurring as we declared our patriotism to our state is a little frightening), learn about Sacajawea (though some spell it "Sacagawea" I do believe), and no, we did not have potato sack races for recreation as my friend Sydney likes to believe. As someone who had spent her previous five years in the corn state of Iowa (not to be confused with Idaho as has happened before), it turns out that Idaho's history seemed a heck of a lot cooler than Iowa's. We at least got the famed exploring duo Lewis and Clark, which led to my coveting of the role of Merriwether Lewis in the school play. These guys traveled across the country, made maps, crossed treacherous rivers, and stirred up all sorts of non-approved trouble within the Native American community, you know, typical white male behavior back in the day I suppose. Being somewhat of a stage hog and attention fiend at the time (I always was up for a good solid solo in the school choir), I wanted a lead role. Unfortunately, the only part for a female was Sacajawea. I knew my friend Shea was a shoe-in, and Sacajawea was the closest thing to a lead role for girls. My friend Becca felt the same way and so we lobbied our teacher to play Lewis and Clark. "But you're girls." Way to state the obvious--I might be in 4th grade but I can still put two and two together. So? "But it's never been done before--these parts are for boys," she protested. After much petitioning --"Why can't we play boys?! It's not fair! We have Title 9, and we can't play a freaking boy in the school play?!" (All right, I'm exaggerating, we definitely did NOT pull Title 9 into the argument as 4th graders, but we would have had we known about it!) I was granted the part of Lewis, and Becca the part of Clark, though I still remember Mrs. Pfaff being seemingly disgruntled by the whole thing. Plus, we were totally better actors and the boys probably knew they would have been harmed if they would have taken the parts from us. Becca had to wear a beard made of coffee grounds (which, might I point out, a boy would have had to as well given that most 4th grade boys can't grow a beard quite yet), and we NAILED it! People felt the struggle of our journey! They felt our passion to discover new lands! I only wish I would have kept up with my acting career, though I'm not quite sure how well I would have fared as cross-gendered parts seem to wane once you get past the 5th grade...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An afternoon of riding my bike, the library, and an iced coffee (it's "feasting" day for Lent...)=bliss

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It's Women's History Month! To celebrate, I'm reading THIS little gem. I'm learning about the good (Betty Friedan, Alice Paul, Gloria Steinam, Michelle Obama, Jeannette Rankin, Pauli Murray, Sherri Finkbine), the bad (Phyllis Schlafly, Anita Bryant) and the ugly (this doesn't matter at all, because feminism is all about not judging anyone by the culture's standard of beauty!). Raise your glass to all the women who have worked so hard to get us where we are today (even though textbooks don't cover very many of their accomplishments...)!!!

Vacation with Robearrrrr!!!

Yes, that is what I call my BFF Rob when I'm feeling especially Latin. Check out what Rob and I have been up to this spring break. Really, Rob, write a book soon!

Check This Vid OUT!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Money Rules

Yes. Pun intended. OK, so I've been thinking a lot about money, how I'm spending it, and as you may or may not know I've become increasingly interested in the minimalist culture as of late. I got the minimalism bug a little bit back in July, but now I've really been thinking more in depth about my consumer in take, need vs. want, etc. Let's be clear, studies shows that money DOES buy happiness--to a certain degree. But then you hit a certain threshold and things aren't quite as pleasurable anymore, and in this country, I'd say we hit that threshold a L-O-N-G time ago. Basically, we're buying a lot of sh** we don't need. And these things add up, penny by penny, prolonging our retirement, preventing us from being able to give to others, having us work harder and harder to support these abundant lifestyles, making the Earth work hard to feed our consumption, and believing the lie that we're much happier or life is better when we own x,y, and z. But the thing that I cannot get away from is the fact that minimalists very much echo the teachings of Jesus. Some might say he knew what he was talking about...? Fancy that. But as I begin to think more and more about when he told the rich man to give up everything...I have to wonder if we (as in us Americans) are those people. If you have two coats, give one away, you know. I look in my closet and I have 6 coats: rain jacket, wool coat, 3 spring jackets, casual winter jacket. I have about a gabillion shirts, more skits then I could probably count on my hands, you get the picture. Stuff. Everywhere. Shiza, I even have like 10 reusable bags--which is great for the environment but why do I need TEN? I downgraded a lot this year in an attempt to become more minimalistic, but I still live in the land of plenty. Minimalists are all about what you NEED. I wondered how much I was spending on STUFF last year--I calculated what I had purchased, and it probably added up to about $600-$700 dollars. And I didn't even buy anything extravagant. It was $20 here, $30 there. That skirt is on sale for $11?! YES. Now I NEED a shirt to go with it, blah blah blah and round and round we go. And then you look around and you wonder where it really got you, because a few weeks later I would look in my closet, see that piece of clothing, and that little pleasure censor didn't go off quite so loudly in my head. And when I sat and thought about how much I had spent on clothes and shoes to make me feel good about myself, I wouldn't say that I felt that much better, and I could have gone on a VERY nice vacation somewhere with all that money (I dream of going to Italy some day SOON...). My professor in college often said that it is American Christians who get the most caught up in the conforming culture, that we lose sight of who Christ really is (that's why we need sociologists!!!) because we are so blinded by what seems "normal" even though the things we believe often very rarely line up with the teachings of Jesus. And then you look at something as devastating as Japan, and you wonder why any of it matters at all.

So with all that to say, I am developing my "Money Rules" to live by in 2011 (and...for the rest of my life really):
1. Will spending money bring me pleasure through experience, not things (ex: a delicious latte in my reusable cup on a winter day in a coffee shop with a good book, crafting supplies, a concert, etc.)
2. Will spending money bring pleasure to someone else (i.e. buying someone a cup of coffee, giving to a good cause, giving someone a gift, etc)?
3. The money is being used towards my personal health/hygiene (i.e. toothbrush, toothpaste, running a 5K, etc)
4. Will spending money fund organizations or businesses that are good for human beings and the planet (Pick up a copy of one of my favorite gifts given to me by a friend: The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollars Makes a Difference)
5. If I give a gift to someone, my gift will follow the abovce rules (i.e. will be socially conscious, or will provide someone with an experience verses a thing)

Obviously, these are loose guidelines. But all that to say, I've been thinking about how incredibly short sighted we are. That $25 dress that doesn't seem like a big deal. An extra pair of shoes. Another pan for cupcakes when you already have one. Before we know it, all of these "little" things add up to very big things. I was even thinking today how we are even short sighted when it comes to our sufferings in life (we lose sight of the vision that God might have for us--we get mad when we could just get over it, we don't give more when we could, etc). That is my goal: to keep my eye on the prize, and keep running the race! No really. Literally--the 5K I'm running is coming up and I need to get my butt in shape.

Some of my favorite minimalist blogs:

Favorite Social Conscious Gift Giving Sites: (it's like groupon--but for socially conscious businesses!)
Or: give to a cause in someone's name!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Best Saint Patrick's Day Treat Ever!

Yesterday, my friend Rachel and I were lollygagging through Whole Foods and low and behold we happened upon a Guinness tasting--that's right people, tons of foods where Guinness was the main ingredient. So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a "Chocolate Stout Cupcake." People, I've eaten a LOT of cupcakes in my day, and let me tell you, I think this may be the best one I ever had. So I went home and tried them out. SO FREAKING GOOD. Moist, dense, heaven. DO THE GUINNESS!! I always have more appreciation for my Irish heritage when cupcakes are involved. *Sidenote: I was really impressed because I thought Whole Foods invented this delectable recipe, which wouldn't surprise me because their stuff is awesome (that's why we pay so much I think)...yeah, definitely googled it and found the recipe--plagiarism?! Did no one teach them academic integrity?! I will expose them for the frauds they are...but quickly get over it because their food is just so delicious! I am so easily pleased. P.S. I'm counting this as my new thing of the week--new cupcake recipe! Duh!


  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purposeflour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 bottle stout beer (recommended: Guinness)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.

In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally betweenmuffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

To make the icing:

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled.

Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


My neighbor posted this challenge on facebook the other day: Basically, it's this campaign that's going on where you drink only water (except Sunday because it's the day of feasting) and then any money you normally would have spent on another beverage you track and then donate that amount of money to help those who have no water in Africa. Oh GREAT I thought to myself as I sat there internally struggling at the prospect. I'll admit, I'm all about social justice, but like any human being when it means having to give up things that I don't want to, it always takes a wee bit longer to jump in. I LOVE my morning coffee (yes, people who knew me in Seattle know this is a new love in my life), and have recently for some reason obtained an affinity for ginger ale (?)--and I was immediately irritated (albeit not necessarily shocked) by my selfishness in the whole matter. Here I actually have a CHOICE of what beverage I choose to consume--my brothers and sisters in Africa do not share such luxuries. If we all give a little bit of those things we love most (money, power, consumption, coffee), we can make huge changes. It'll be an interesting adventure, as I already had a mild detox caffeine headache today, and I'm really saddened that I'll only be able to have one or two lattes the Sunday I go home over break at my favorite coffee shop, but so be it. PLUS, and this helps the green side of me--I learned that drinking less coffee actually SAVES more water (because of how many gallons of water it takes to produce it). Win-win, and I love that! I say all this not to sound self righteous, but to hopefully inspire you to jump too! So sign up NOW!

"When you know better, you do better." --Maya Angelou