My Favorite Podcasts for the Background

When I’m at work, I concentrate better when I have some background noise. It helps the tedious tasks go faster, and I feel like having something to tune out helps me focus on what I’m looking at more. My work environment isn’t all that noisy, so I bring podcasts with me when I go to work. There are no commercials, like when listening to radio, and I can pick what programs to listen to based on my mood. My workplace also blocks online radio, so music-wise, I’m limited to what I can fit on my player, and that can get boring sometimes.

Here are some of the podcasts that help me get through the workday (in alphabetical order).  You’re best off googling the title to get the best source for whatever your podcast downloading program is, which is why I haven’t included links.

All Songs Considered: A song sampling podcast. Features lots of different artists, so I’ll always hear something new. They tend to pick non-top 40 artists, which is great for me, as I’ve felt like the charts have homogenized lately. Updates weekly.

American Radioworks: The name of this show is deceiving. It’s actually about education. I may not be in academia anymore, but I like to pay attention to it. This show isn’t always using the most recent news stories, just stories that are interesting and related to education. It covers K through college topics, so anything goes. Updates weekly.

Ask Me Another: A quiz show from NPR featuring puzzles and a bit of music. They have a guest every week. It’s very similar to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (below), but the puzzles could be about anything, not just the news. Also has more of a trivia aspect than the Sunday Puzzle (below). Updates weekly.

BBC World Update – Daily Commute: A morning news summary from the BBC. I love the BBC because compared to most American news sources, they are truly neutral about U.S. news. They have a bias, of course, but it’s a bias that is very easy to spot, and doesn’t bother me. They also tend to focus on international news more than American news sources. The show normally focuses on two to three stories, and reads headlines in between. Updates weekdays plus an extra on the weekend.

Fresh Air: This show feels like mostly a pop culture show; they interview authors, musicians, film-makers, etc. Most of the time the interview is just about their work, or their influences, or their history. Not a lot of opinions to be dramatic about. Tends to feature lots of clips or examples of the works. Updates weekdays with a “highlights” episode on the weekend.

JapanesePod101: I actually have a minor in Japanese. I haven’t used much Japanese since then, but I try to at least make sure I’m listening to a little bit of this. This podcast features a short (roughly 10-15 minutes) lesson, normally using a conversation. They include a translation in the lesson, and put a transcript in the lyrics of the mp3 file. There’s an associated website (which I haven’t used because it requires a subscription for serious use), and other languages. If I ever decide to learn Polish, I’ve decided that I’ll try this first. Updates weekdays with an extra “news” (i.e. advertisement) segment on Sundays.

NPR Story of the Day: It may seem like I listen to a lot of podcasts, but even I don’t like to have to juggle too many episodes. All Things Considered and Morning Edition are actually really interesting news programs, but to get them in podcast form would require downloading a lot of episodes each day. Updates daily.

NPR Sunday Puzzle: A quick game, normally a word based one since it’s hosted by the guy who makes the crossword puzzles for the New York Times. Not as fun as some of the other posted shows, but it at least gets the brain thinking in a different way. Updates weekly.

Snap Judgment: Stories on a theme, with added sound effects and music. Similar to This American Life (below), but with a little more rhythm. Also, doesn’t follow a three act formula; some of the stories are only a couple minutes long. Updates weekly.

Splendid Table: A show about people who like to talk about food and think about food. It’s almost like something that would be on Food Network, but on the radio. Relies on their website if you want to get recipes, but what cooking show doesn’t? Updates weekly.

Tell Me More: A mixed news show, with interviews and round tables on various topics. It often leans toward current events, especially politics, typically with a focus on issues related to diversity. Since it’s NPR, they have to present a neutral view, of course, but it’s one of the few U.S. news sources I can listen to without head-desking. Updates on weekdays.

This American Life: A show with stories on a theme. Normally done in 3 parts. Updates weekly.

Thistle and Shamrock: A collection of celtic music from NPR. I actually used to listen to this on my local NPR station back home, but the one here in Oklahoma doesn’t seem to carry it. Thankfully, there are podcasts. Unlike All Songs Considered (above), there is very little talking about the actual music. They tend to just let it play. Updates weekly.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: A quiz show based on the news. Lots of repeating gags, and tends to include an interview. Humorous way to keep up with current events. For me, it’s heartening when I get all the questions right, because it makes me feel like I haven’t fallen out of touch, despite not having cable. Updates weekly.

You Bet Your Garden: A show about gardening. Full of lots of tips and tricks for fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. The format is that of a call-in style show, with an interview sometimes and a question of the week. It mostly focuses on in the ground gardens, which isn’t super applicable to me right now, but may be in the future. Updates weekly.


Recipe du Jour: Moroccan Stew


I love cuisines that make great use of spices. India or Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter. There’s something about the warmth of spices that turns something into instant comfort food. Herbs tend to make something fresh and light, but spices make it earthy and filling. And this dish is no exception. While I’m sure it’s not really authentic (it comes from Rachel Ray, after all), it still invokes some good flavors


  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (14 ½ ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ½ ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 (10 ounce) box couscous or equivalent bulk couscous


In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; discard the fat in the pan. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil or butter and the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and 2/3 cup water to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, stir in the beef and parsley and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to package directions. Serve the stew over the couscous.

Notes: I haven’t ever made this with lamb even though the original recipe calls for it, mainly because I’m not sure where I would purchase ground lamb. It’s much easier for me to get a hold of ground beef, and that makes it an easy weeknight solution for me. I don’t think the couscous is necessary; you could easily eat the stew over anything starchy, or in a pita, or just by itself.

2013 CSA Week 6


One thing about getting this much fresh food straight from the farm is that it doesn’t last as long as under-ripe supermarket produce.  It’s been a challenge to eat through it all.

This week’s haul:

  • Snow peas
  • Cabbage (again!  I’m running out of ideas!)
  • 2 little cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Beets
  • Green onions
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Lettuce

I see lots of salads in my future because we still have so much lettuce!

Oklahoma Tornado Relief

I am not a native Okie.  I wasn’t born here, I didn’t grow up here.  Sure, I get frustrated with the lack of progress and the outdated politics.  The prevalence of just one religion controlling most of the social world is annoying.  But Oklahoma is where I have met all the people that I consider my closest friends.  It’s where I met my husband.  Oklahoma is where I feel ok saying hi to a random stranger and telling them about the new local restaurant that opened somewhere in town without getting funny looks.  Oklahoma is where I and my husband have chosen to stay as long as we can because Oklahoma has a really strong sense of community.

So when a big tornado happened on May 20 and devastated a huge section of the town of Moore, Oklahomans came together.  Moore isn’t the only place that’s been hit by tornadoes recently, but it is the one that’s closest to me and made the biggest news.

If you feel like helping out the people who’ve lost everything (literally!), I’m including some links.  I know it’s been a couple weeks since the big tornado, but I’m doing this on purpose.  See, right after a disaster, there’s lots of help: money, donations, and volunteers.  But as the event loses exposure, so too does the help trickle off.  My plan is to take one of my half-days from my summer hours and go give blood (something I’ve never done before), and try to see if I can fit in volunteer work on a weekend or two.  Anyway, enough babbling on my part.

Link 1:

Link 2: (This one includes info on some of the other places that were hit.)

2013 CSA Week 5


Sorry for the week off guys.  I live in Oklahoma, so we’ve had a lot of tornadoes lately, and while the posts I had in the queue went up, I’ve run out of buffer.  I’m going to rebuild it today, as well as put up a post in the next couple days for people who want to help.  My place wasn’t hit, but the town just north of me was hit really bad (you may have seen Moore, OK on the news lately).

Our farmer was thankfully not hit either, so this week we have:

  • Eggs
  • Beets
  • Snow peas
  • Two small cucumbers
  • Green onions
  • Another (!) head of cabbage
  • Bunch of asparagus
  • A bag of lettuce
  • A bunch of strawberries (nice and fresh this time!)

We’re still working through the stashes we’ve got, so hopefully I’ll also have new recipes to post as we try to think of creative ways to use up the vegetables.  This is probably one of the healthiest moves we’ve ever made.