Adventures in Greening: Greening the Afterlife

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By Catherine Moran

Is there such a thing as being too green? You may think so, after reading this post. I, on the other hand, think that what I’m about to share with you is really neat (big surprise, right?) So what is the topic of today, you ask? Organic Burial Pods! Two Italian designers have come up with an alternative for people to consider when deciding on their final resting place.

Cremation and being interred underground are the two ways that we care for the remains of our loved ones after death. But what if their bodies could contribute to the earth even after death? That’s the idea behind Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel’s burial capsule.

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These burial pods are organic and biodegradable (as are we!), and would provide nutrition for a tree seed or tree that would be planted above it. Then, instead of a tombstone, families and friends could visit and care for their loved one’s tree. This seems like a gentle way of reminding us that we can still celebrate life and beauty, even in the depths of sadness and despair.

What do you think? Is this just a bit too “Circle of Life” to become a valid burial option? Would this option only make us further vulnerable to the zombie apocalypse?

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Sweatshop

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By Catherine Moran

This link popped up on my Facebook feed a few times last week, so you may have already seen it, too. I linked to a piece about fast fashion a few posts back; living in New York City, a fashion capital of the world, I see a lot of fast fashion. You can actually see trends being born when you live here. As Heidi Klum says on Project Runway: “One day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out.” That’s fashion, apparently. But how can we chuck out clothes every “season” and get on board with new trends? How is such clothing made so rapidly?

Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion follows three young Norwegian fashion lovers who travel to Cambodia to learn about where the clothes they buy and discard come from. The idea behind Sweatshop is a good one, and is worth the watch (especially given that all five webisodes are no longer than one hour altogether). Talking about sweatshops is one thing, but seeing the reality of it is another; even though, as Ludvig remarks, the sweatshop they work in for a day is one that actually allowed them access. Those that denied the production team are probably much, much worse than what they experience here.

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The three fashionistas hear stories about why some of these people have to work in sweatshops, and they are given such tasks as trying to make a meal for multiple people and buy three toothbrushes and toothpaste for only $9 ($3 a day is the average living wage for a sweatshop garment worker in Cambodia). They even see some of the protests that workers are staging, demanding to be paid a living wage. This is important stuff for us to see; fast fashion is not just a problem in Norway: we have H&M here, too. It’s a cheap go-to for clothes that will wear out after awhile, but people don’t shop at H&M thinking their blouse will last them for more than a few months. The clothes just aren’t made that way.

There are a few issues with watching Sweatshop: the English translation is a bit off, which can be distracting, and the opening credits make it feel like this is some version of an upbeat British teen drama. But stick with it! Seeing these three people with their perceptions about fashion (and, to be honest, their sense of entitlement), and the effect the truth has on them, is pretty interesting. This isn’t a hard-hitting documentary, but if you’ve wondered about who makes your clothes, and what that her everyday life is like, this is a quick glimpse, and may make you think twice about where you are spending your dollars.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: See Ya, Styrofoam!

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By Catherine Moran

I read some exciting news about my neighborhood last week: starting this summer, New York City is banning foam food packaging. Additionally, foam packing peanuts will no longer be sold in the city. This means that food cart vendors (of which there are many) will have to find a different way of sending you off with your food. This is exciting news for the treehuggers, but city officials have been fair to those who oppose the initiative, giving supporters of foam packaging a year (in 2013) to prove that the material could be recycled. Their findings? Foam cannot be recycled.

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This is, on the whole, great news. However, nonprofits and smaller businesses can apply for exemptions if they can prove that purchasing other containers would be a financial hardship. It’s not difficult to imagine that cart vendors will receive this exemption; thus, the ban will not completely eliminate the use of foam containers in the city. But, hey, it’s a pretty good start! A step forward, no matter how small, is still a step forward.

This leads to another interesting idea: alternatives to foam packaging. Many restaurants in NYC use #5 plastics, which can now be recycled in the city’s recycling program (or brought to Whole Foods—or other participating stores—to be recycled as part of Preserve’s Gimme 5 Program). #5 packaging is the most sensible packaging alternative for vendors, but! What if, in the future, foods (although maybe not hot to-go food) could be purchased in…edible packaging? Yes, the future is here. At this date in time, Wikipearl is still in development, and working to overcome challenges, but you can buy yogurt and ice cream in edible packaging in some Whole Foods stores. Whoa!

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The idea behind Wikipearl is that we buy produce, such as grapes or apples, that’s in edible packaging, meaning that there is no waste associated with the item. What if most of the food we buy was sold in packaging that could be consumed or composted? We’d cut down on so much waste! There’s a ways to go with the idea of edible packaging, but it’s an idea that may prove fruitful in future.

2015 is shaping up to be a good year for green enterprising. Let’s hope the trend continues!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: New Year, Same Me…

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By Catherine Moran

…with new goals, that is! I’m not one to ascribe to new resolutions at the start of the year (I make ‘em throughout the year!) But here’s a list of things I hope to have accomplished by the end of the year. I don’t want to overwhelm myself, and I don’t want to make the list unrealistic. We’ll see how things are going at the end of the year, which, given how quickly this year went, might just fly by.

• Say goodbye to my plastic razor with throw-away heads, and invest in a safety razor and real blades.

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• Successfully use aforementioned razor.

• Get back to making lunches for the week on the weekend prior.

• Donate, donate, donate.

• Utilize Craigslist for moving Stuff to a new home.

• Minimize.

• Buy less Stuff, and continue using my dollars to purchase more tickets to shows, faraway places, and athletic and creative classes. There’s a lot to DO in the world!

Photo by Catherine Moran

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(Photo by Catherine Moran)

 

What do you hope to accomplish in 2015?

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Adventures in Greening: Happy End of the Year!

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By Catherine Moran

It’s been a relatively good year in environmentally-friendly news. California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores, a design for a mobile personal printer was revealed, and Illinois banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics. This list could go on with things that happened on a more grassroots level, or with things that I just plumb missed out on hearing about (enlighten me in the comments!)

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on the past before leaving it behind and gazing ahead to what could in store in the coming year. In looking back on my actions this year, I realized that I was able to maintain a good number of green habits I’ve adopted over the past two years, but I slipped backwards in other habits (the big culprit? Pre-packaged food.) But even though I wasn’t as green as I’d hoped to be this year, I’m heartened by the fact that I haven been able to stick to the majority of these lifestyle changes. I’ve acknowledged it before, but change is hard. And changing habits, as we know, is particularly tough. So sticking to better habits while acquiring more good habits (even if they don’t stick right off the bat), is a plus in my book. If you’ve made even one good change in your life this year, I applaud you!

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Here’s to a safe and healthy holiday season, and a bright start to the new year.

Be well, greenies! See you in 2015.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Living a No-Waste Life

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By Catherine Moran

As I continue to try to eliminate trash and plastic and unnecessary Stuff from my life (not always succesfully), I’m always on the lookout for inspiration to keep me striving to improve my habits. Thankfully, my friends are on the lookout for me, too. Kate-book’s very own Kaitlin sent me this piece about a 23-year-old New Yorker who hasn’t produced any trash in two years. I’ve been perusing her blog and other social media presences, and they are WAY cool. She seems to be a great resource, and as a fellow NYCer, I will benefit from her recommendations for where to find no-waste shops. How exciting! I can already feel myself getting reinvigorated.

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Another interesting article I came across recently focuses on fast fashion, and the ethics behind buying clothing (of lesser quality) at stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo. There are a few reasons why clothing at these stores is so cheap, and none of these reasons are good. On a subconscious level, I think many of us know this, but it’s not something we necessarily need to think about, so we don’t. Especially when budget comes into consideration (though you can find some great stuff at vintage and second-hand shops, or from Etsy, or ethically-minded companies.)

Now that I’ve shared these links with you all, it’s time for me to continue perusing TrashisforTossers. Have a great week!

(Technical note: occasionally these posts are not going live on Mondays at noon as they are supposed to. This is still the designated time for these posts to appear, but if they do not, know that a post is just delayed but still forthcoming. Many thanks!)

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Buy Nothing Friday

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By Catherine Moran

So, Friday is almost upon us, otherwise known as Black Friday, AKA the day where people will bring other people to harm in order to make sure they purchase the biggest deals they can find. For a growing number people, it’s also known as Buy Nothing Day, a day to focus on all else that life has to offer: family, friends, cooking, gathering items to donate.

As stores continue to open on Thanksgiving Day (dubbed Gray Thursday) and take employees away from their family members, I’ll be focusing my efforts on reading that book I’ve been waiting to get at in earnest, and chilling out with my family. I may be doing some shopping, but Experience Gifts, only.

If you want to learn more about Buy Nothing Day, you can check out this post.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s Kitchen: Giving thanks for this delicious soup!

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

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Butternut squash – I wait all year to make this soup.  The squash is available year round, but there’s something about waiting till Autumn to enjoy this delicious treat.  For a number of years now it’s been a family favorite as a Thanksgiving appetizer.  While it can be filling, just a small bowl before dinner awakens your palate to the flavors of Fall.

The most difficult part of this recipe is cutting the squash!  Fear not, you can purchase the squash at your local grocery store.  It’s already cut into cubes, and ready to be cooked.  You will, however, pay more for skipping a step; not to mention that you would have to buy several packages in order to equal what you would get from one whole squash.  I will confess to having bought the already-cut squash, and truth be told, I prefer buying it whole and roasting it.  The beauty of roasting it is that you really only have to make one cut, in half, lengthwise.

I found this big boy at the flea market at Englishtown, NJ.  It was so big that I was carrying it around like an infant. To give you an  idea of its’ size, I placed it next to my cup of tea for comparison.

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First, let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need; then I’ll tell you my simple method or getting the most out of your squash.

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Obviously, butternut squash – about 4 pounds – or 2 medium squash

One tart apple, such as a Granny Smith; peeled, cored, and diced. I happened to only have a Red Delicious on hand when I made this; it will do in a pinch.

One medium onion, chopped

Two tablespoons of olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon of sage

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup half and half

Now:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Using a large, sturdy knife cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scape out the strings and seeds as you would if you were cutting a pumpkin at Halloween.

DSCF4589Next:  Make some criss-cross cuts on the flesh of the squash, and rub one tablespoon of the olive oil on both halves of the squash.

Sprinkle both halves generously with the salt, pepper, and sage.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, and bake till fork tender – about one hour.

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While the squash is baking in the oven, using a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onion and apple, season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally until tender – about five to seven minutes.  Remove from burner and set aside.

When the squash is ready, remove it from the oven and place on a wire rack.

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When it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh and place it in the pot with the onion and apple. Stir to combine.  Discard the skins.

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Return the pot to the burner, add the broth and water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stirring occasionally, simmer for about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the half and half.

Using a blender, or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste, and add further seasonings if necessary.  Ladle the soup into a bowl, and garnish with croutons if desired.

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For me, this soup is a meal in itself so it doesn’t really need any accompaniment.  That’s why I say if you’re serving it before a meal, a little bit goes a long way.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: And the Holiday Season Begins?

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By Catherine Moran

As the consumer culture machine grows ever more advanced, I’m seeing Christmas advertisements all over the place now, and we’re barely at mid-November! These ads serve to make me feel a little crazed. Despite the fact that I’m getting better about not buying excess Stuff, the frenzied atmosphere that precedes Christmas in the months (months!!) leading up to it can still make me feel somewhat pressured to contribute to buy in, as it were, to the idea that the holidays mean showing someone you care by giving them a new watch or gaming system.

That said, here’s a great list from the Huffington Post for gifts that are fun for kids, but won’t contribute to clutter. I found the link through the Clean Big Project’s Facebook page. It’s okay to be creative with gifts; consumer culture wants us to feel cheap if we give something such as a homemade coupon book to a friend or family member, but that’s actually more meaningful than something grabbed off a shelf. The gift giver put in the time and thought to consider the recipient’s personality, and what sorts of things would bring a smile to their face. Thought! It really does count. Keep it in mind as the holiday season festivities begin to ramp up, and stay strong.  (Of course, Stuff will inevitably creep into the equation, but remember that you vote with your dollars, so if you can, shop where it counts.)

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Happy not-yet Thanksgiving!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Goodbye, Socks?

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By Catherine Moran

My friend sent me a link to Not Socks back in August, but I’d missed it until now. It might be more helpful to have this information in the summer, when you really don’t want to be wearing socks, but, hey, maybe you can ask for a pair this holiday season to get you ready for the summer.

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While the idea behind these not-socks is a good one (they absorb foot odor and sweat, so you don’t have to worry about stinking up your soles), I’m not sure they’d be great for most shoes that I wear. I can see them being beneficial for my Toms (which, yes, you can wash, but that puts more strain on the shoe’s fabric; I know from firsthand experience), but I would still have trouble with other flats. I wear no-show socks (slip-on socks? footie socks? I have no idea what these are actually called) with some of my flats to prevent chafing at the back of the foot. The NotSocks provide anti-stink sock-like coverage for the bottom of the foot only.

The socky things I wear.

The socky things I wear.

In sum, if you like to go socks-less, these are a good option, especially because, depending on how much you sweat, you can wear Not Socks in your shoe multiple times before washing. Not too shabby (or stinky).

Until next time!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s Kitchen: There’s a first time for everything

DSCF4529By:  Kathleen Neafsey

Indeed, there’s a first time for everything!  For me, this was my first time making dumplings.  I only vaguely remember having dumplings as a kid – and even then it was because a neighbor had made them.  I don’t ever recall my mother making them as part of any meal.  I could be wrong, and my siblings may beg to differ, but that’s my memory.

Browsing through a soup cookbook (of which I have many) one day, I discovered this recipe for chicken and vegetable stew with chive dumplings. This looked like it had the potential to be delicious, so I figured what the heck!  While it can be made without the dumplings, I welcomed the opportunity to try something new.  Not rocket science, I know, but a new and gluten free experience for me.  So here’s my version of the recipe, with some modifications.

Stew ingredients:

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3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 large celery stalks, diced

1 Tablespoon flour (Gluten free, in my case)

1 cup water

3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth ( 2- 14 ounce cans)

3/4 cup milk

1- 10 ounce package of frozen peas

Dumpling ingredients:

3/4 cup Bisquick gluten-free mix

1/3 cup milk

2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine

1 egg

1/2 cup minced chives

Prepare stew:

In a small bowl, combine paprika and salt

Place chicken in a large container with lid, and pour in the paprika/salt combo.  Cover and shake so that chicken gets coated evenly.

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In a large soup or stock pot, over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil until hot.  Add chicken, and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

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Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to pot with drippings, and heat over medium heat until hot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until vegetables are lightly browned and tender.

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In a cup, using a wire whisk or fork, stir flour and water until blended.  Add the flour mixture and chicken broth to the pot; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Return chicken to the pot and heat to boiling.

While the chicken stew is heating up, prepare the dumplings.

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I used a large soup spoon to scoop out the dumpling dough, using another spoon to push the dough off of the first spoon and into the stew. Once all of the dumplings are in the pot, cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until the dumplings are cooked through and tender – about 25 minutes.

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To complete the stew, stir in milk and peas, heat through – another ten minutes.

I, for one, was super happy with this stew and my first attempt at dumplings.  This is the perfect meal for the cool Autumn days ahead.  It’s even better the next day – that is, if there’s any left!  The perfect way to end this meal is with last month’s recipe found here for apple crumble!

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Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: Way to Go, California

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By Catherine Moran

Almost two weeks ago, California became the first state to ban plastic bags. Starting next summer, single-use bags will no longer be offered in large summer markets and grocery stores. However, according to this Huffington Post article, bags at other retailers and bags used for vegetables, fruits, meats, and do not fall under this law. Convenience stores, pharmacies, and liquor stores in CA will have until 2016 before the law takes effect for them.

Grocers will be able to charge a 10 cent fee for paper bags, although this fee will be waived for those on public assistance. And, of course, you can always spend the money one time on a reusable canvas tote, which can be washed to keep away the germs. I know I’m biased, but this news makes me very excited. What doesn’t excite me is that plastic bag manufacturers are pushing back on the law, and they’ve already amassed some support.

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Another article caught my eye this week, coming from CA, about washing out recyclables. I always do what I can to wash out my containers, but the person posing the question in this Q&A raises a good point: washing out containers is a waste of water. The respondent provides some good advice for making sure your containers are clean without wasting water: use leftover dish-washing water, use a dry paper towel (which you can compost), or use a spatula to scrap containers clean.

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My personal recommendation, however, especially during pumpkin season, is to lick the containers clean. Have a great week, greenies!

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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