Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lifelong Learning As a Process (not a means to an end)

This past week I found a website that has inspired a shift in my thought process about learning and how I spend my time. It all started 2 days ago when I was talking with a good friend about how we both need to get back into exercising regularly and eating well. Sometimes it can feel impossible to get into a routine when we are exhausted from a long day of work and we just want to 'relax'. I remembered reading an excellent article series several weeks prior about Habitual Mastery and how to create an environment of success for starting new habits. Before we got off the phone, I promised to send her the article when I got home.

When I went back to visit his site I found such a wealth of information about how to get more out of life by embracing lifelong learning and increasing day-to-day productivity. His work resonated with me profoundly. From a young age my parents instilled in me a love of learning and through my college career I have enjoyed and learned from EVERY single class I have taken, regardless of wether or not it pertained to my major. Yet, the information on his site takes this concept to a whole new level.

Just last year he decided he wanted to learn computer programming. So he did the entire 4 year MIT curriculum in 1 year without taking any classes. This year he has decided he won't speak English and is going to travel and learn 4 languages in 4 countries. To say this guy is inspiring is an understatement.

He writes about setting goals only as a way to structure the learning process and not as an end itself.

In a craving mindset, you pick the easiest possible route to your goal. From a process viewpoint, that is boring. Instead you want to pick one that meets your level of challenge.

I totally agree with this, and my own experience has shown that my favorite classes, where I learned the most, were the ones that challenged me the most. He also talks about his Goal of Learning Everything, that everything in life offers an opportunity for learning that helps build a framework of intelligence.

This information has my brain churning with possibilities and aspirations for the future. I have already been open to my friends and family about wanting to become a University Graduate, Registered Herbalist, certified yoga teacher and personal trainer. But I have always qualified it with saying I am probably crazy and it doesn't hurt to dream big. But, my horizons have expanded. I don't need to stress about cramming everything into a few years as I have my whole life to learn. If I wanted, I could take the equivalent of medical school curriculum and learn it though sites like OpenCulture or MIT Openourseware. I could take a course in Ayurvedic medicine or Permaculture. Or Memorize Chapters of Scripture. Or Learn New Languages. Or learn Ballet. Or write regularly on this blog. haha Anything is possible, and how exciting that I can spend my whole life learning new and interesting things, regardless of if they are 'directly' useful to my career. I want to live to the full potential that God planned for me and I want to help as many people as I can while I am here on this earth.

I know that my regular classes at school and my herbal classes need to be my main focus right now in terms of traditional classroom learning. But I am formulating some ideas about other aspects of my life that I want to improve and how I can use my time better. I want this to stick, so I will wait until I try out a few things before I talk about it here. I can be bad at sharing my goals with everyone and not following through.

Telling people about your goals feels productive. That feeling of productivity reduces the motivation to do something genuinely productive.

I am inspired to experiment, and restructure, and see where this process takes me. I am overwhelmed by a sense of expectation of the opportunities that God will provide for learning and growth as we head into a new year.

What are some things that you are interested in learning? Can you see a point in your life where craving the end result of your goals has kept you from enjoying the process of reaching those goals?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde is one of my favorite condiments. Ever since my sister and brother-in-law showed me how to make it last year, I crave it all the time! Therefore, I decided to grow tomatillos in my garden this year to give me a fresh supply of them for making salsa verde. 

Over several weeks I accumulated enough to make a large batch. You can tell some of them are older than others by the faded wrappers. I kept them in the fridge for 3 weeks and they were fine. 

I heated up a skillet over medium high heat, unwrapped the tomatillos, and slowly roasted them. I used a tongs to turn them so they charred on all sides. 

You can tell that the top part of this tomatillo is done because it has turned a different color.

Here is a tomatillo that has finished cooking. A good way to tell if it is done is if it splits open to release all the yummy juices. This is charred tomatillo perfection! :)

As they are done cooking, transfer them to a heat proof bowl. I had so many that it took me three batches to cook them all. 

Then I chopped up 3 large Onions and did the same thing. I let them char on each side and used the tongs to flip when needed. 

Then I took a bunch of Garlic and some Chile de Arbol and charred those as well. The chilies cook really fast so don't put them in the pan and walk away. I think I only had those in the pan for 10 seconds per side. The garlic took about 3 minutes per side. 

I love how a lot of produce comes in it's own special packaging. 

Once everything was done cooking I added it all to the bowl along with one bunch of cilantro and some salt. 

Then I blended everything together and tasted to make sure it didn't need more chili or more salt.

For dinner that night I made thick corn tortillas and topped them with black beans, shredded carrots, sour cream and salsa verde. It was delicious!

Tips for Salsa Verde:

-Roasting in a skillet is the traditional way to make this condiment. However, my sister recently showed me a new trick by roasting everything in the oven until blackened on top. It worked just as well and was a lot easier than slaving over a hot stove top :). The only thing is you want to keep the tomatillos separate from the garlic, onion, and chilies. When the tomatillos are roasting they produce a lot of liquid in the pan and you don't want to steam cook the other veggies, but make sure you add the liquid to the bowl and don't dump it out because it has lots of good flavor.

-Cook all the chilies you think you will need at once, but add them one at a time as you are blending the salsa. You can always add more heat, but you can't take it away. 

-In my opinion this is best served warm. But you can try it warm and cold and see which way you like better

-If the salsa is too thick you can add some water to help it blend better.  

-I made a very large batch here. But the general ratio is 7-10 tomatillos, 1-2 onions, 4-5 cloves garlic, 1-2 chilies, 1/3-1/2 bunch of cilantro and salt to taste. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Garden Update September 19, 2013

 Hey everyone! I know it has been a little while since I updated. I have been running like crazy since school started. It has been a full 6 weeks, with school and work along with a baby shower, traveling for a death in the family, making a wedding cake, and so much more.  My life is full of blessings and I am thankful to wake up and experience each new day.

 I finally had a chance to work out in the garden over the last couple of days without getting mauled by mosquitos. It has been lovely.

I started these seeds about 4 weeks ago. They started off with root rot, but they finally dried out and they seem to be doing really well now. Now that they have their first set of 'true' leaves I can put them in the garden. I actually planted half yesterday evening and finished putting in the rest after I got home from work today.

I planted Kale...

Mustard Greens...


and Cabbage :). 

Hopefully they will mature before the first frost so I can have greens all winter!

 I took out all the basil and tomato plants to make room for all my greens. I am happy to report that we still got about 30 tomatoes, 30 tomatillos, and about 50 cucumbers throughout the summer. So, it was definitely worth the $7.50 in seeds that I bought. I know that once I get a garden spot with more sun my plants will be even more productive. 

I planted a small patch of arugula 6 weeks ago that is doing really well. After I cut down the basil plants,  I cut off the tops of the rest of my green onion plants and used them to mulch the bed. Hopefully this will keep the caterpillars from munching on my new green seedlings. 

My habanero plant finally started producing peppers. Hopefully they will all turn red before it gets too cold. 

I am leaving my thai basil plant that has gone to seed as a food source for the bees. It also looks really pretty with the purple flower stalks and white flowers!

An extra tomatillo plant with lots of flowers for more bee food :).

My 3 okra plants are taller than me now. When we harvest regularly we can get 10-15 okra pods every 3 days. It is very productive, and Chris and both love eating okra. It has definitely slowed down since the weather is cooling off, but maybe we can get a few more harvests yet.

I am letting this big okra stay on the plant to dry out to save seed for next year. 

Stevia. I recently harvested a lot and will harvest again before the first frost. I read that it gets sweeter when the weather cools down, so I am waiting for that to happen. 

A little tiny okra plant that never got enough sun. Poor little plant got shadowed out. 

Close up of arugula. 

Lettuce that I planted 1 week ago. They also had root rot when they were first sprouting. AH! I even got soil from garden and made sure it wasn't too wet. I hope I can figure out what to do next year to prevent this problem. But, it seems like they are surviving and hopefully their growth won't be stunted too much.

Stevia drying. 

Yesterday's harvest. I also harvested 3 big okras to let them dry out inside as a backup in case something happens to the okra drying on the plant outside. 

So, those are some pictures of what is going on in my garden right now. Next on the to do list is to repot some aloe that has grown more pups and dig up the aloe in the garden before the first frost.

We are going out of town for a wedding this weekend so I have to go now and take Bowdon to the kennel for boarding. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!