Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Europe Here We Come!

Hi friends! My family and I are headed to Europe:you can follow our trip here! Cheerio! http://www.everlater.com/jessmiller17/jess-dot-millertime-takes-london

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jesus Gets Sassy

Every year around my birthday, time I log onto Facebook, I reflect on my life and where it's going.  Perhaps this is because I am in the middle of the waiting game, and I think things to myself like, "Wo, wo is me, where am I headed?!  Who am I?!"  Boohoo Jess.  Get a grip.  I used to reflect annually around these sorts of issues, especially through my mid-twenties.  What did I accomplish this year?  Where am I going?  Who am I becoming?  What were my values?  But it turns out that being in your twenties is a whole tangled mess of shoddy surface-y comparisons  (I blogged about this last year).  Career?  Check.  Relationship Status: Married: Check.  House or at least an apartment in the cool side of the city?  Check?  Traveling the world?  Check.  When we think about other people's lives, we might not pause to think about the quality of that check mark, or we might not have seen the trials and tribulations that came with it.

And every time I log onto Facebook, I am inundated with what everyone else is doing, or what everyone else has, and its easy to get caught up in the gaps.   I find that my unhappiness typically comes with whatever it is that I don't have at the moment, even if its a glass of red wine.  I log onto facebook, and someone has posted of picture of their delicious meal COMPLETE WITH RED WINE.  Well now I'm pissed.  That's a terrible example, but it could be that I'm lonely and I want friends, or a relationship, or a cool job, or a neat place to live, or a new car, or I need a vacation and I can't afford one or I'm too busy.  Take your pick.  And even if I have 4 out of 5 of those things, or even if the very fact is that I have clean water to drink, I focus on the few things that others have that I don't.

Because inevitably, I suffer from relative depravation.

Relative depravation is this crazy phenomenon where, when in comparison with others, we tend to look at what we DON'T have, verses all of the things we DO have--we compare upwardly verses downwardly.  Case in point: Facebook friend Amber (I don't think I have any friends named Amber, so I think this will work) got a cool job.  You sit and think to yourself, "But I want a cool job too!  This whole cleaning telemarketing thing is for the birds!  I'm tired of people screaming at me!"  Meanwhile, we might not sit around and compare ourselves to the gargantuan amount of people who are job-less.  And even being unemployed, I'm thinking more about the fact that I don't have a job, not so much thinking that I'm not homeless or have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.  Maybe we get a 40 percent discount on the things the telemarketing company sells, but we want the 50 percent discount our friend at another company gets, but we don't compare ourselves to our friends who get nothing at all.  It's a whole new meaning to the "count your blessings" saying.  The analogies are endless.  We are a nation that is always in want, and it seems our proverbial appetite is never whetted.  It's very exhausting.  The woes of the privileged middle class I suppose.

I love this little bit at the end of the book of John in the Bible, because Jesus gets really sassy with the disciples, and in my non-Christian script he screams at them or maybe uses some unsavory language (I hope that's not blasphemous).  He's giving all of the disciples a pep talk, you know, telling them "Follow Me!"  And of course Peter, being the complainer that he is (I feel like I would be the Peter of the group, and no one wants to admit that), is like, "Hey Jesus, what about John?  What's going to happen to him?"  And Jesus says, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow me." (v. 22).  WAKE UP CALL PETER JESS.  Ouch.  Get your life together and stop comparing yourself to everyone else!!!  He says.  I guess things haven't changed much since 33 A.D.  I don't mean to sound preachy, but the parallels are just too strong.

I imagine Jesus told Peter to butt out of John's business, because God had something specific to teach each of them, things that they and they alone needed to hear.  Maybe, later on, their stories would overlap, and they might need to share an experience to help the other along, but maybe it would always be something that remained between Peter and God or John and God (this article I read got me thinking).  So many of our stories are very interconnected, and I love and use Facebook for the same reasons a lot of other people do.  It's not a bad thing, it's just a different entity than we have ever experienced before.  I imagine its just a new and easier way to compare, but comparison in and of itself is nothing new (I feel like I'm better understanding the reasoning behind the whole "Thou Shalt Not Covet" thing).  Perhaps so much of it is looking not at what others are doing and I'm NOT doing, but how other's own stories might seek to inspire me, change me, and move me to achieve my own dreams (which I shall promptly post on Facebook! :)

What do you think?  Has this been your experience with Facebook?  What are you thankful for?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quinoa Muffins!

The best part about being fun-employed is that I get to enjoy the fun of baking.  And boy, do I love to bake (and eat my product!).  I've been really into quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) as of late--and it turns out its kind of a "trendy" food right now (or at least I've been hearing a lot about it, but maybe its selective observation?).  It's sort of like rice (at least you make it the same way), but it has more of a nutty flavor to it--it's nice to mix it up every once and awhile, and it's also chalk full of good things for you.  Woo!  It turns out quinoa is very versatile and can be used in everything from black bean burger patties (dee-lish!) to baked goods!  So I thought I would give it a whirl!  I called upon good ol' Martha for some help (here's the link):
via theroadnotprocessed.com


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cook's Note

Be careful not to overcook the quinoa or to use more than the required amount of water. The grains of quinoa should be tender but separate, rather than mushy and clumped together.

Of course I HAD to make this recipe my own though-Martha just gave me the jumping off point.  I cut out the raisins (not a fan), and I wanted CHOCOLATE in my muffins!  I made the mistake, which actually turned out to be awesome, of adding chocolate chips when the quinoa was still hot.  Of course, it melted all together, making chocolate muffins instead of non-chocolate muffins with chocolate chips in them.  I also didn't have vanilla, so I replaced it with almond extract--so I got a DELICIOUS chocolate almond flavor.  My poor mom better get one before they're gone! :)

It turns out there are TONS of variations of quinoa muffins as you can only imagine, including lots of vegan varieties if you are interested in that (this chocolate avocado one looked particularly dee-lish).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Just an FYI that in just a week in a half I will be going to (drum roll) LONDON for the OLYMPICS (I suppose it would have been good to follow sports this year.  I only know who Michael Phelps is from the Subway commercials, so my hope of celebrity sightings might prove more difficult).  So get ready for some kick ass photo collages when I get back!

On the docket:

1. Field hockey/basketball tickets for the Olympics
2. Eating lots of food
3. Bike tour of London at night (note to self: check up on health insurance application...fun-employment=no benefits.  Not so fun.)
4. Paris--The Eiffel Tower!  Croissants!  Thin moustaches, berets and snobbery (stereotype much?!)!!!!!
5. Ireland!  Tour of the Guinness factory and the Jamison whiskey factory! (Matt: "Be sure to pack your extra liver.")  I think we are also touring a castle and kissing the Blarney stone.  WOOT!

I'm going to strap on my welleys, pull up my knickers and get ready to eat a lot of fish an' chips!!  Blimey ho, Brits, here I come!

Why Sustainability?

I don't know if you've noticed, but there are a LOT of problems in the world.  Every time I open up the Huffington Post, I brace myself for whatever depressing news is going to be scrawled across the opening page in giant, huge caps, as if Arianna Huffington herself is personally screaming at me about the horrible tragedy from that day.  It's a rough world we live in, and you've got to be pretty resilient or be a firm practicer of the phrase "ignorance is bliss" to get through.  Have I got you down yet?!

I remember my last week in my Introduction to Sociology class in college.  As many of you know, this was the turning point for me, and was one of the first times that I really began to think about the world in a different way, and the intersection between my faith, justice, and politics.  We had learned about all of the different institutions (i.e. gender, race, class, etc) and by default all of the inequalities/unfairness that came along with them that affected people's lives in deep and serious ways.  The world, it seemed, was a huge shit hole.  Fortunately, my professor didn't leave us all wanting to bury our heads in the sand, and spent our last class focused on what we COULD do--after all, she said, while you may be one person, one person can have a huge impact.  She urged us, that in light of all of the problems we had talked about, to pick just one to focus on.  It is my belief that when people become so overwhelmed  with so many problems, that it actually moves us to inaction, thinking that we have no capacity to make a difference.  But by focusing on one, collectively we can change a lot of things.

My interest in various issues has ebbed and flowed, but, through trial and error, I've found that my issue is environmentalism and sustainability (and gender, though I won't highlight that in this post).  If you want to know the truth, I hate that this is my issue some days.  Mainly because, admittedly, there are a lot of silly stereotypes that come with it, and I feel the harsh eye rolls when the topic comes up or I ask someone to recycle something instead of throwing it in the trash.  I don't like that people immediately think "granola hippie," or joke that "you must not shower" when in fact, I believe it is my civic responsibility, and the call of everyone to contribute to the solution (and my actions ultimately affect YOU).  By stereotyping, people get to remove themselves from being a part of the solution.  I don't like being painted in this way.  Sometimes I think environmentalism gets sort of a bad rap because it's seen as a "trendy" issue--again, this is an easy way to write things off so that they seem less important (if something is "trendy," it means it is not going to be around forever), even though we need to completely re-alter our thought process and actions in order to move forward.

But sustainability is close to my heart for the following reasons:
*It turns out what's good for the planet is good for me! (riding my bike vs. the car, healthier, local, unprocessed foods, spending less money on consuming needless products, etc)
*It allows me to exercise my love for justice.  I've always been concerned about issues pertaining to poverty, women, people of color, etc. and these are all enveloped under the umbrella of environmental justice--that is, those that will be most affected in the long run are those that are currently most societally disadvantaged.  The divides between various groups will only become more exacerbated as resources become more scarce. Exploring the intersection of these things is vital to the sustainability movement.
*It contributes to my overall daily mindfulness in practical ways.  While sometimes justice issues can be more big picture or theoretical, or things that might be more ambiguous or that you don't see every day of your life, environmentalism is something that requires daily action steps, and this keeps me mindful.   Everyday I have to think about things differently than I used to.  Do I need to buy that item, or can I reuse something in a different way (and as a fun-employer, this is important!)?  Do I need to use a paper plate just because it's easier to clean up, or can I spend an extra 5 minutes doing the dishes and creating less trash?  Do I really need to drive there, or can I make one big trip, or ride my bike or walk?  Just because something has always been one way does not mean it has to continue being that way.
*It helps me to be creative!  Sort of similar to my third reason, but a little bit different.  I consider myself to be a fairly creative person, and I love that trying to live a sustainable lifestyle consistently has me thinking of different ways to do things with less overall impact.  I love crafting--can I refurbish an item I already have into something new?  I ran out of ribbon or an envelope--can I find an alternative instead of rushing out to buy new stuff?  Can I find a new way to wear an outfit to avoid purchasing a new one?  Can I find a way to think outside of the box and do something in a different way than I always have or is the cultural "norm" that is greener?

This is not to say that other issues are not vitally important, or that other issues are not near and dear to my heart, or that I will never help out with another cause (silly!).  Gender issues are a point of concern for me as well.  But in terms of my passions, this is the thing that I think about most deeply, and has very radically changed my lifestyle in the past year in so many ways.  So for now, this is what I will keep exploring, keep reading about and keep thinking about!

What's your issue that you are passionate about?  Why have you chosen it?  How have you taken action?

Summer Readz: What I'm Into

Well kids,

As my period of fun-employment continues, let me tell you, I pretty much spend a majority of my time reading, and crafting (with occasional marathons of watching mind-numbing useless television).

I have a fairly hefty reading list (I just bought two books today--thank goodness for gift cards.  You have to careful when you have no income, and it turns out the public library is sub-par.  I miss the Noah Webster Library in Connecticut!), as well as some recommendations, just in case you need one!

Summer Reading List:
1. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion: Elizabeth L. Cline.  As the title implies,  a look into the cheap fashion industry (i.e. Forever 21, H&M, Target, etc) and the impact it has
2. The End of Food: Paul Roberts  (Echoing food experts such as Michael Pollan, Roberts explores the food industry and its impact on the planet and our bodies, and where we're headed)
3.  Marriage: A History: Stephanie Coontz (WARNING: I anticipate that this book dispels any preconceived notions that you have about marriage--I read the sample.  Sociology always manage to rip anything you believe to shreds...its the nature of the beast)
4.  The Year of Biblical Womanhood: Rachel Held Evans (to be released Oct. 30).  (I loved Held Evans book "Evolving in Monkey Town" about her journey through faith, and hers is a blog that I follow regularly.  She always provides insight, and spends the year following the "letter of law" as the Bible outlines for women--such as covering her head, submitting to her husband on all matters, wearing her hair long, etc.  Her question is "What does it mean to be a 'biblical' woman?"  I'm a sucker for year-long experiment books!
5.  Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate:Justin Lee  (to be released Nov. 13)  (Rachel Held Evans recommended this book on her blog, and from the title it sounds like a fascinating and extremely necessary conversation to have).
6.  Plastic: A Toxic Love Story: Susan Frienkel  (Frienkel follows the history of different household products such as a comb, grocery bag, plastic bottle, etc. and discusses their various impacts)

Woo!  I can't wait to read these!

Books I've Read and Love...(as an aside, I tend to stay away from fiction as a personal preference...so you'll have to check out someone else's list for fiction suggestions.  I've heard Harry Potter is cool...)

Memoirs/Books Written By People Who Inspire Me In One Way Or Another:

1. Bossypants: Tina Fey (She needs no introduction.  I love her.  I want to be like her.)
2. Blue Like Jazz: Donald Miller (I read this book 8 years ago and its still one of my favorites and deeply influenced the way I see my faith.  It was one of the books that taught me that things are not very black and white, and I began to see that I could be liberal and a Christian too.  I guess you could say it had a heavy influence in helping me to get the proverbial stick out of my ass for lack of a better term when it came to understanding that faith does not equal legalism.  I like to read this one in small bits every now and again)
3. Anything by David Sedaris: This guy is a freaking hoot.  And he's funny in person too.  A guy I hope I can write like some day
4.  Traveling Mercies: Anne Lamott: Similar to Blue Like Jazz, when I read this book years and years and years ago it taught me that there's more than one way live out faith, and you can not have your life together (i.e. hot mess) yet still find beauty in the fact that you have no clue what you're doing.  I would say that Donald Miller and Anne Lamott laid the foundation for helping me to think about how justice and faith go together, and how things are not black and white.  These books prepared the way for me to understand things later on when I went through a very transitional faith period (read: crisis) my senior year of college.

Justice/Sociology Books:

1. The Working Poor: David K. Shipler  A look at the myths that dictate the ways in which we think about the poor, and the ways in which those ideas shape the way that we form our policies and politics
2. White Like Me: Tim Wise  Examining the reality of White Privilege
3. The Second Shift: Arlie Hochschild  Through her research, Hochschild examines disparities between working men and working women's contributions to household labor
4. The Tipping Point: Malcolm Gladwell  I guess you could qualify this more as a "social psychology" book, but this is a fascinating read on what it is that makes certain phenomenon catch on (actually, anything Malcolm Gladwell writes is extremely interesting).
5. Full Frontal Feminism: Jessica Valenti  (Just a warning, this book contains some graphic language/imagery, but in my opinion totally worth it).  Valenti explores the question "Why do we need feminism" and the different social structures that still reveal inequalities for women--really easy, funny read.
6. I Am America (And So Can You): Stephen Colbert: I'm not really sure if this REALLY fits in this category to be honest, but Colbert covers a lot of different facets of American culture and through political conservative satire points out the lunacies of it all.  SO FREAKING HILARIOUS.  I literally was laughing out loud to the confusion of people at the airport.

Books that Changed the Way I thought About The Environment and The Food Industry:

1. The Ominvore's Dilemma: Michael Pollen  Probably one of the most important texts as related to the food industry, Pollen examines the current state of the industry and explores such issues as the attack on biodiversity, carbon footprint in terms of food transportation, eating locally, etc, and how these all impact our health and the environment.
2. Eating Animals: Jonathan Safran Foer  A look into the ethics behind eating meat and the food industry
3. Food Rules: Michael Pollan  This really tiny, easy-to-read, super accessible little number is one of the foundations for my understanding of how our diets should look
4. No Impact Man: Colin Beavin  About a NYC guy's attempt at living off the grid for one year

Well, that's a start I guess!  Happy reading!

I'm Baaaacccckkk

Hi friends!

I recognize that I've been absent (you know, moving across the country and all).  So here I sit, in Salem, Oregon, back as a [hopefully] permanent citizen of the Pacific Northwest and ready for action!  Of course, the name of my blog will need to be changed soon (cuz I ain't on the East Coast no' mo')...that's still TBD (if you have any suggestions, feel free to share them!).  I anticipate that this phase of the blog shall have more of an emphasis on simple living, and "being green"(please don't label me "granola" and hear me out!), and discovering what the heck it is I'm supposed to be doing with my life and whatever other fun little gems pop into my head.  Expect that I will share with you my adventures in fun-employment (definition: the "funemployed" person has no job and finds the utmost pleasure and merriment in being work free.  The fun-employed fills his/her afternoons with whatever he/she desires, and may silently or verbally delight in the fact that he/she may galavant about as he/she pleases while others are stuck at work.  "Fun-employment" transitions into official "Un-employment" status when the participant's funding runs out and he/she, or the participant becomes extremely board with his/her life after a certain period of time after acquiring employment is attempted repeatedly.  "Fun-employment" is a temporary state).  I recognize the privilege in fun-employment (others do not always get this luxury), and I anticipate enjoying this time to the fullest, and figuring out what my next steps are going to be.  Anyways, my goal is to post once a day, so stay tuned...!!!