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cherry blossoms

photo of the week by Florin Garoi

Some links on food, some good food blogs, a post on prayer, some book list links, and a Downton Abbey (parody) fix. Bon appétit!

:: Want to Forage in Your City? There’s a Map for That (NPR via Nourished Kitchen)

Avid foragers Caleb Philips and Ethan Welty launched an interactive map last month that identifies more than a half-million locations across the globe where fruits and veggies are free for the taking. The project, dubbed “Falling Fruit,” pinpoints all sorts of tasty trees in public parks, lining city streets and even hanging over fences from the U.K. to New Zealand.

The map looks like a typical Google map. Foraging locations are pinned with dots. Zoom in and click on one, and up pops a box with a description of what tree or bush you can find there. The description often includes information on the best season to pluck the produce, the quality and yield of the plant, a link to the species profile on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, and any additional advice on accessing the spot.

:: Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?  (Mother Jones)

The very qualities that improve palatability and lengthen shelf life—high sugar content, fats that resist turning rancid, and a lack of organic complexity—make refined foods toxic to your key microbes. Biologically simple, processed foods may cultivate a toxic microbial community, not unlike the algal blooms that result in oceanic “dead zones.”

In fact, scientists really do observe a dead zone of sorts when they peer into the obese microbiota. Microbes naturally form communities. In obese people, not only are anti-inflammatory microbes relatively scarce, diversity in general is depleted, and community structure degraded. Microbes that, in ecological parlance, we might call weedy species—the rats and cockroaches of your inner world—scurry around unimpeded. What’s the lesson? Junk food may produce a kind of microbial anarchy. Opportunists flourish as the greater structure collapses. Cooperative members get pushed aside. And you, who both contain and depend on the entire ecosystem, pay the price.

:: The 2013 Best Food Blog Awards (Saveur via Simple Mom)

In Saveur’s ongoing mission to chronicle a world of authentic cuisine, we find what we’re looking for more and more in one place: online. Of the tens of thousands of nominations that came in this year—blogs great and small, visual and textual, humorous and profound, technical and amateur, exuberant and austere—we found not just great writing, great photography, and a great commitment to the importance of food to storytelling and community-building, but also some blogs that truly spoke to us. We’re thrilled to shine a light on the sixty-eight unique blogs that are finalists in the fourth annual Saveur Best Food Blog Awards—and even more delighted to announce the winners in each category. Congratulations to all!

:: The Time I Almost Stopped Praying… And Then God Showed Off (FOCUS.org via New Advent)

I took those thoughts home with me and spent the next several months grappling with them. I began to get specific and did my best to be bold in my asking, “I want another child Lord! Bless us again!” And the more I prayed the more I began to have peace, but not peace that made me feel confident that my prayers would be answered, rather peace with “any answer.” My heart’s desires began to change and so did my request. I no longer just wanted another child, I wanted God’s Will for the growth of our family. My heart began to conform with the heart of my Father, I started to want only what He wanted, all because I started to really tell Him deep down what I wanted. I had found the grace to be open to His grace and was ready to accept His plan for our family, whatever it might be.

:: Some updates, and five amazing books to make you feel better about your crazy life (Conversion Diary)

As I bounce along this rocky road of health recovery and adjusting to having 50 or six or however many kids there are in this house now, I continue to find books to be a huge stress reliever. In particular, I love true stories of people who have gone on wild adventures and lived to tell about it. Maybe it’s because I am the least outdoorsy person in the world, but any time I read of people staying strong while being tested to their physical limits, it always fills me with amazement at the indomitability of the human spirit…and makes me really, really, really glad to be sitting in my house, no matter what kind of craziness happens to be playing out in my own life at the time. For those of you who could use a little escapism right now, here are a few books I recommend for this purpose.

:: Twitterature – April 2013 Edition  (Modern Mrs Darcy)

This is the place to find short, casual reviews of what people have been reading lately.

:: Watch Downton Abbey Resurrect Matthew in Musical Parody Performed by Broadway Stars (Vanity Fair)

The long wait until Downton Abbey’s fourth season seems less bleak today thanks to a musical parody that has found its way to the Internet. Directed and co-written by John Walton West and featuring music and lyrics by Jason Michael Snow, the production, filmed at Studio 54 in New York, depicts the cast and creator of the costume drama as they develop a musical episode à la Greys Anatomy or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The result features one thrilling tea-centric duet between Carson and Mrs. Hughes, a gloomy mourning number by Mary, and a hen-fest parlor-room sequence featuring the Dowager Countess and Martha Levinson.