This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Monday, April 26, 2010

Gluten-Free Foodie Update

A friend just asked for some info on gluten-free food, so I made a list of some top new tips I've learned.  I know I did a piece on gluten-free eating before, but just wanted to update you on the latest!  

1. If you have a Trader Joe's near you, ask them for a list of their gluten free products. It's a few pages long...take it home, bring it to the store, try something new every time.
2. If your little one likes baked goods, the very best brand I've found is called French Meadow Bakery. The blueberry muffins are amazing and come frozen and individually packaged: just let one defrost...you'll never be able to tell they're gluten free!
3. A lot of mainstream companies are starting to hop on the GF bandwagon...General Mills and Betty Crocker are two excellent examples. I love the Gen. Mills GF Corn Chex (they have Rice Chex too), and Betty Crocker now has cake, cookie, and brownie mixes that are yumm! You can get these anywhere.
4. If your kids are like me, they'll probably miss what every mom tends to make a lot: spaghetti, bowties, macaroni and cheese...But they don't have to miss it! Brown Rice Pasta is great - don't tell them it's not "real" pasta and they'll never figure it out. Be careful, because the "cheese" powder packets almost certainly contain wheat, so you'll have to come up with another way to insert the cheesey goodness. Don't let rice pasta boil too long, or sit too long before eaten, otherwise it disintegrates pretty quickly.
5. Like to eat out? Hopefully there's a Panera Bread or Chic-fil-a near you. Both of these places have detailed ingredient information on hand and are always more than willing to go out of their way to protect against contamination...I've never gotten sick at either place!
6. IMPORTANT: don't overlook creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos/conditioners, and anything else that can be absorbed through your skin. Bath & Body products are not okay. But a miracle cream does exist: Gold Bond lotions are fantastic and completely gluten free (except if they come out with an Oat lotion, stay away from that, as often oats are processed right alongside wheat.) Personally, I love their Healing Aloe line. Another allergen-free brand I just came across is called BABYBEARSHOP. They've gotten amazing reviews (like this one I just read in my favorite local magazine).
7. Borders, Barnes & Noble, and any major bookstore will have several GF cookbooks...I'd say pick up a few and browse before buying!
8. If you really want to learn about the top players and their books/research in the GF industry, take a look at the program from the "GF Culinary Summit

I'm always on the lookout for new gluten-free products, so check back often or contact me (shiraheden at gmail dot com) if you want to know more about specific brands, or especially if you want to 

Friday, April 23, 2010

American Freedom: how we got it and how easily we can lose it

You can bet my kids are going to see this short film!
It's only 9 minutes long, give it a try...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A touching moment

About eight other students at Belmont and myself have been awarded the Henry Horrell Scholarship, sponsored by Steve Horrell, an active and generous Nashvillian and Belmont alumnus, who supports students like me in honor of his father, Henry.  

Henry Horrell was pulled out of school during the depression to help work and support his family.  He was only in 9th grade.  But he would become a successful businessman, meet the President of then-struggling Belmont College, get involved there, and send both his sons to Belmont to receive the first college degrees on either side of the family.  Henry Horrell, with only a 9th grade education, was eventually serving on the Belmont Board of Trustees.  Now Henry is 95 years old, and he still goes into work five days a week.  Admittedly, he spends much time napping is his chair, says his son Steve, but he watches CNN religiously and keeps up with the stocks, and just enjoys being a part of something.  

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Steve Horrell and the other students he sponsors.  Together we sat down, heard Mr. Horrell's story and involvement with Belmont, the Rotary, and YouthAct, and each had the opportunity to share our story with him -- how we came to Belmont, what we're studying now, our future plans...and most of all we had the opportunity to thank the man who's caring generosity has made it increasingly possible for us to study at this marvelous institution.  I was really touched by the stories of my peers; one girl's dad has MS and hasn't been able to work for years, a few of the young men's fathers had lost their job and weren't able to make tuition payments, some students had twins or siblings that were also going to Belmont or in law school or medical school, a few were the first ones in their family to ever step foot onto a university campus.  I left there feeling really lucky, and just overwhelmed by the positive support of the administration and donors to Belmont.  They really care about students here, and it makes this a very rewarding university experience.  

Belmont is an expensive school, and a lot of students gripe about the landscaping budget (you have to admit, it's gorgeous) and Sodexo's cafeteria food which is at the same benchmark quality as the California's prison system (hey, the prisoners eat well!), but what most students don't know is that our tuition is subsidized by a whopping twenty percent due to donations by philanthropists and alumni.  We only pay eighty percent of what it really costs for us to live and study here each year.  

It really puts things in perspective.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So close...

It's crunch time, but hopefully my thesis prospectus will be approved by next Friday. 

Working Title: Social Capital, Personal Financial Capital, and Entrepreneurial Intent in Russia

I just got great news last week: My thesis advisor (without my knowledge) sent my prospectus off to a friend and research colleague.  She reviewed it, was very complimentary of my writing, is intrigued by the project, and has hopped on board!  As it turns out, this woman is one of the leading researchers in my specific field of entrepreneurship -- the one whose work I've built my whole study off of!!!  

I was literally speechless when I was told that she wants to work with me.  We've only had the opportunity to have one phone conference so far, but she's already provided some very valuable insight and I'm so excited to see the project develop!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Fever

It's been absolutely gorgeous here for several days now.  The humidity hasn't set in, and the slightly breezy 80 degree days are driving everyone crazy with spring fever!  Finals aren't for a few weeks yet, so we've been taking good advantage of this nice change in weather...
Last week was Greek Week on campus, so all 6 of our fraternities and sororities were in high gear.  Every night there was some kind of fundraiser, concert, ultimate frisbee game or giant obstacle course for the gang to tackle.  A lot of the girls on my floor are in sororities, so it was fun to watch them come back giddy and laughing from all the fun!  Oh, and I should mention that Belmont is a dry campus, so our Greek life parties are overall a wholesome experience!
I've just stumbled upon the website where Belmont's professional photographer archives all the events and speakers on campus, so I must give him credit for these photos.  Here's a great one featuring a beautiful Tennessee sunset...

Friday, April 09, 2010

40/40 Revisited

I found this today while reading back through my journals from the 40 States in 40 Days trip last summer. I think it perfectly conveys the nostalgic mood I was in, and reflects all that I was taking in as we traveled from coast to coast.
The lyrics to Guthrie’s “This Land” first caught my attention as a sixth-grader in Mrs. Hamilton’s music class.  “This Land is My Land/ This Land is Your Land/ From California to the New York Island,” we sang, as we strummed the very basic chords of this song on our half-size Yahama student guitars.  “New York Island?” I kept thinking, “I’ve never heard of New York having an island.”  I was lost in thought, pondering Guthrie’s descriptive phrases of America’s landscapes as we finished the abridged version of the song that we had learned, consisting only of the refrain and first two verses.  “This Land” was part of the school’s repertoire of patriotic music.  It was sung every year during our Spring Fling concert alongside classics such as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Fifty Nifty United States,” and “America the Beautiful.”  I never took note of who wrote the song, what kind of life he led, or what inspired him to write.  From my perspective, whoever the author was, he was no doubt a great American hero, like Francis Scott Key, who wrote our national anthem in the midst of an attack on his battleship.  “This Land” has always been a purely celebratory hymn for me.  From sing-alongs with my siblings to school performances, singing this song was to paint a most beautiful picture of America.  Several years have gone by since my elementary years, and “This Land” had been filed away in the depths of my cranium, along with memories of lunch boxes, playground competitions and colorfully illustrated maps of our fifty states.  But this summer, as I entered northern California’s redwood forests for the first time in a long time, a wave of nostalgia washed over me as a mental video clip from my childhood started to play: I watched my family pull up to the same redwood forest nine years ago, singing “This Land” repeatedly as we jockeyed for a prime window spot from which to look up at the ancient towering sequoias.  From that moment on, and throughout the rest of our trip—as I looked out over the rocky Oregon coast, rafted through swift waters in Yellowstone, drove through miles and miles of South Dakota’s badlands, stood on one of New York’s islands while staring up at our Statue of Liberty, walked among the graves of a generation that gave everything to secure our freedoms, and as I looked down under the bridge in South Carolina at the Gullah harvesting sweet grass—Woody Guthrie’s most celebrated song was on permanent repeat in my head.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sunnier times, a sunnier place

Nashville's gloomy weather and a conversation with one of my very favorite French language enthusiasts has left me dreaming of summer evenings in Cannes....

I've recently been looking at real estate in Provence; not much, just a little home to spend where I can escape the cold Nashville winters and enjoy the relaxing French countryside.  I've started a list of friends who've agreed to come for a visit to this eventual home of mine, so if this sounds like something you'd like to do, I'd be happy to add you!

I haven't yet signed a lease, so for now you'll have to settle for this seashore panorama. (Click the photo to enlarge.)

Monday, April 05, 2010


My blog has been getting a lot of attention lately.  It's great because every time I click "Publish" I have this sense of accomplishment that I've created something--thought it up, written it down, made it blogworthy.  It serves as an escape from homework, an indirect procrastination mechanism.  Let me tell you, if you need an excuse to put something off, you really need a blog.  It's this magical thing that "demands" attention.  Because people are going to visit, they're going to want to read something new.  Even if the world is crashing down around you.....you can't let the readers down!

I know, I know.  It's a false sense of urgency.  It's the urgency I should be feeling about the final draft of that thesis prospectus that was due last week.  But some things you just can't rush.  And a thesis prospectus is one of those things.  The thing is, when it's ready, it just flows out.  Like the music that flows out of the end of a conductor's baton.  If you can just wait for the right time, the polished prose will gurgle up out of your brain so fast your fingers won't be able to type fast enough.  But between those wordy extravaganzas I sometimes just want to yell at my professor: "Stop!  Don't make me try to write it now! You're making it worse!  We just need to wait!"  And nobody will believe me, because everyone knows that college students these days don't really want to learn.  But when it all comes out they'll see. They'll see that it just takes time.  All that information - all seventy three of my sources - are rolling around in my head, forming a cohesive plan slowly but surely.  I just hope that my ideas can get their act together in time! 
The end of the semester draws near!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

On Easter - Les Pâques


The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances. 
Robert Flatt

Let every man and woman count himself immortal.  Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection.  Let him say not merely, "Christ is risen," but "I shall rise."  
Phillips Brooks

But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.  
Walter Raleigh

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
John 11:25-26

And he departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him.  For He departed, and behold, He is here.  
St Augustine

Once upon a balmy evening...

Last night Jon and Kelsey and I drove down south of Franklin to the middle of nowhere, put out a tarp and blankets, and just laid out under the stars.  We talked and talked for at least an hour or two, argued about constellations, and marveled at how we'll be able to see the Milky Way from Joshua Tree, CA when we stop there this summer during the course of our road trip.  At one point I thought, "How nice it would be to just back up a few decades when people did stuff like this every night instead of sitting in front of TVs." Of course, I changed my mind when Jon pulled out his iPhone and pulled up some real-time star charts to settle our dispute over the location of the Big Dipper.  "Okay, I thought, I'm going to work hard to garner the best of both worlds:  iPhones and Blackberries and iPads and GPSs are great, but I'm going to get out and make sure I'm enjoying all the other less-connected activities in life.....even if I'm enjoying music from my iPod during the hike :)

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