Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time: WTF?

How is it already the eve of 2009? New Year's tends to sneak up on me: the excitement of the Xmas buildup and the holiday proper seem to overshadow all else and then WHAM! It's New Year's Eve. This year, the overshadowing/WHAM happened even more quickly than in the past, and here I am, sitting in the kitchen with a mug of tea, updating my blog. Resolutions? Not really, though I hope to 1) sort through my mail and other papers more diligently, with greater frequency; and 2) at least try to floss more often. (See how irresolute those pseudo-resolutions are?) Big plans? Nope. We'll probably go out in town, the roads being slick as hell, and I would like to wear my ruffly dress(!) But if I don't do either, I won't be too forlorn.

New Year's: it's the lamest of holidays. For most of us, the weather is horrid (an argument that doesn't apply, of course, if your home is in a [sub]tropical clime), which presents real difficulties to the individual trying to look hot. Indeed, only some of us can manage to look jawesome wearing acres of wool and opaque hosieries. Then there's the anticlimax of New Year's in comparison to Xmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Solstice), which is usually rich with tradition and spent with family/friends. NYE, too is usually spent with family/friends, I concede, but there's an air of mania and desperation undercutting the whole thing. The practices of one's-year-in-review and writing resolutions seem to force a linearity onto less easily defined motivations, occurrences, thoughts. Life is random; resolution-making assumes unflagging willpower (initially, at first), that the maker's desire to even uphold said resolutions will remain unchanging through the year. Flossing? Screw flossing. Actually, no: flossing is important, but I won't beat myself up if I don't floss every night.

I don't know. I don't mind NYE, but I'm not a fan. That is, if facebook allowed people to become fans of the date/event/holiday(?), then I would not become a fan. (Maybe I'll check now to see if that's even a possibility...)

Well, this sounds more curmudgeonly than I'd hoped. I am excited for the coming year: I just don't want to cram all my excitements into one night.
Happy K9, friends(!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

WINTER BREAK! YEAH! I am so cozy: all my gifts are wrapped and the cranberry candle is burning and I just ate a delicious sandwich and I found my mittens. Winter break mode! Has finally set in.

Tidbits

It's finally winter: the season of Netflix. This weekend, we had two huge snowstorms - school was actually canceled on Friday, the last day of finals. We stayed inside, ordered Chinese food, watched "The Dark Knight." Having seen it, I can't say I feel too bad about having waited this long...meh. Overhyped, in my opinion. BUT: back to Netflix: I need to update my queue because all that's on it at the moment is "How I Met Your Mother" (as many discs as allowed) and "Who Killed John Lennon?" And I might delete the latter. Movie suggestions, anyone?

Ali and I went skiing yesterday, despite the horrible road conditions and subsequently ueberdangerous drive(s) to & from the hill. It's strange: I love skiing, although I'm inexperienced [read: not too good] at it. This affinity for the snow sport defies my usual behavior pattern of hating & scorning things I'm not good at - for example, basketball, public speaking, singing, dancing, and so on. In most cases, I fervently avoid activities for which my skills are underdeveloped. Don't we all? But skiing: skiing is a horse of another color. I'd really like to be good at it, and the only way for me to get better is to practice, despite looking like an ass whilst practicing. But good news: I did not fall once while disembarking a chairlift yesterday. Jawesome.

Well, A. & I found out the hard way that our landlord is less than fastidious about having the parking lot/alley plowed. Last night and this morning, I got stuck trying to enter/exit the parking lot because there is so freaking much accumulation. True, Toyotas don't handle exceptionally well in the snow, but there are at least eight or nine inches of snow in the alleyway. And that is bullshit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF CLASSES:

though, this good news is irrelevant to me, since I taught my last classes yesterday.

I cannot be totally filled with end-of-semester glee, however, because I have three days of Final Conferences with students (Mon-Wed next week) and then my FINAL GRADING. Still, though, after I'm done with those shenanigans, I'll have a good two weeks to: work on some crafts, hang out with my mom for Xmas week, and refine/finalize my creative writing syllabus. And re-read some of the books I'm teaching. Totally manageable, right?

I am becoming perhaps inordinately excited for my impending move back to the Midwest. (Warning: this may turn into a minirant about Why New England Can Never Be As Good as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Illinois.) It's not that I dislike New England: nay, it would be foolish of me to claim hatred for an entire region. I just dislike the certain part of N.E. that I'm living in now. Having grown up in a midsized suburb of Minneapolis, and having gone to college in ueberrural Illinois, I'm no stranger to the non-city life. I do not mind driving to my favorite deli, or to a concert, or to a museum. Yes, it's nicer to be able to walk to these things - to have access unhindered by the pain-in-the-ass activity that is driving - but it's not requisite for my happiness.

That being said, I'm starting to get restless in the li'l corner of MA where I now reside. It's just really...small. Imagine it as a less cool, way smaller Peoria. Or, for Minnesota residents: a less cool Blaine or Andover. YEAH. There's nothing that's open 24 hours; the nightlife is a little meh; the restaurant scene (with a few notable exceptions) is a lot meh. Meh. Now I'm just whining. What it really comes down to is this: the Midwest is my home, and though it's not on a coast*, it is leagues better than Western Mass. The end.

*Actually, neither is my current city, despite its supposed "coastal" status. BOOYAH.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Also:

Am scoping out the housing scene(s) in the cities where E. and I might possibly move next year, and HOLY CRAP: housing in the Midwest is so, so much cheaper than it is here, I can hardly stand it.
Damn.

Hell yes!

Finally, I am done with the semi-annual gradeathon! Yes, Sunday and Monday I forged through the insane amount of work I created for myself (using various methods of procrastination/accompanied by bouts of balking). Handed back my students' unit three papers yesterday, and the semester is mostly downhill from here. Get this, though: one of my students, after receiving his paper and as he exited the classroom, called me a bitch. This student, I assume, was disappointed with his paper grade. Such is life. Still: WTF? You don't do the work, you don't get an A. End of story.

In other, less obscenity-riddled news, I'll be teaching my creative writing course during winter break, and I am psyched. When I applied last year for a creative writing position, I received a continuing ed slot to be taught during J-Term. I didn't really know what to expect in terms of enrollment; I got a letter notifying me that minimum enrollment was eight students, that if I didn't reach this quota my class would be cancelled and I'd be given a mini-stipend as compensation for my planning. This did freak me out a bit, and I continued being freaked out as the enrollment held steady at six. But, sometime last week, two more students signed up: the class is on!

It's going to be intense: a semester's worth of work condensed into three [four day] weeks. It's going to be awesome.

It will be strange, not going home for winter break. Every year for the past six, I've headed back to MN for a monthlong (or sixweeklong) stretch of arguable R&R. My time was equally divided between working (random part time jobs; more recently, subbing in the public schools) and reading. Here, most of my time will be spent working: teaching, at the key office, on my thesis. Work, work, work, and the gray sky getting dark earlier every night. To keep from going nuts, I'm planning: 1) to go to the gym as often as possible; 2) a few ski trips; 3) to resume where I left off with various craft projects. Strategies: oh yeah!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eek.

The problem with procrastination is that it always leads to the same end. Yes, I've had fun during the past few days, feigning a devil-may-care attitude and bummin' around like a champ, but now I'm having a minor heart attack at the thought of all the work I must do. Intensifying my terror is the weekend's recreation lineup: Boomer's 1920s semi formal on Saturday, and a tentative day trip Sunday, all day Sunday. Eek! Eek!

Unrelatedly, I observed some strange behavior at the gym yesterday - dude on the crosstrainer next to me was wearing a hat as he worked out. I'm not talking about a baseball cap: this was a legit hat (woolen, thick). And he wasn't lackadaisically exercising: he was exerting himself and sweating all over the damn place (I noticed because he is also the sort of person who doesn't clean the machine after using it). What would possess someone to wear a hat to the gym? I don't...get it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I am procrastinating: yes, it's true. The semester ends in nine days - is that right? - and I still have a pile of unit three papers to grade, but what am I doing? Reading Perez. Brewing endless cups of tea. Creating excruciatingly detailed lists in googledocs. And Xmas shopping. My day was in some senses productive - I paid bills, went to the gym, graded other student work, looked over last night's workshop critiques, grocery shopped, cleaned. Just not productive in the sense I'm looking for.

Sunday, I started reading Carole Maso's Defiance, and I hate to say that I'm a little disappointed. This judgment will most likely prove to be premature (I'm only 35 pages in), but the language seems flattened out, normative. I read Ava and Aureole about two years ago, one after the other. These were books I couldn't put down, the language was so of its own creation. Defiance, though...
Has anyone else read it? Would anyone like to discredit the above statements and give me hope for the remainder of the book?

I am kicking myself now! In allowing myself to become so preoccupied with sundry procrastinatory activities (i.e., browsing around TJ Maxx), I totally forgot to buy Candy Cane Joe-Joes! CRAP.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let's just say I'm less than thrilled that the holiday weekend is over & that it's back to the regular routine. That's the thing about holiday weekends: afterwards, the transition back to one's regular schedule is un-fun and grouchy.

Some good things:

1) I realized today (while re-doing the Key Office's whiteboard calendar) that there are only two weeks of classes left (three of the semester). Hot damn! Salvation will be here before I know it.

2) Saturday, my mom, sis & I spent the day in Shelburne Falls, quite possibly the cutest place in MA. It reminded me a lot of Osceola, WI: both towns are on the scenic riverfront, both are rife with mom & pop cafes/gift shops/trees, both are nice weekend diversions. I hadn't thought about Osceola in who knows how long; when I was in high school/college, I used to drive there from CR to get my hair cut. (A good family friend has her own salon there.) Getting a haircut was a daylong event: the drive to Osceola took an hour; the cut itself, an hour. Afterward, I'd get lunch at Dagwood's, a place on Main St. specializing in subs and tacos. Then, I'd spend an hour or so browsing the antique store, looking for Lucite earrings and chunky plastic bracelets. Ah, Osceola. Dagwood's is closed, I'm fairly certain. In fact, it may have closed while I was still in college, the market for tacos and cold cuts not being as strong as it once was. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to venture (mid)westward before the winter's up.

Happy post-Thanksgiving! And pre-winter! Let's all not be too long faced at work and school today. The end.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving was pretty great. I have to admit, I was worried that we wouldn't pull everything off - we had an extensive-ass menu - but we did. We did. Here is what the four of us cooked:

*Turkey (11.1 lbs.: the smallest bird we could find) & gravy
*Mashed potatoes (garlic, and also mashed potato casserole, which is regular mashed potatoes + sour cream + grated cheese, baked with cheese on top: one of Ali's concoctions)
*Old skool stuffing (so much butter)
*Corn bake
*Raspberry salad
*Cranberry, apple, and orange relish
*Steamed broccoli, steamed carrots
*Snowflake rolls (these, admittedly, were store bought)
*Chocolate cupcakes
*Pumpkin pie

and...

*Nachos, with Ali's specialty dip.

The nachos don't really fit into most people's Thanksgiving schemata, but they were a delicious accompaniment to football. My all-time favorite, of course, is my mom's stuffing: there's no written recipe, but the constant is BUTTER. I know she seasons it with thyme, sage, poultry seasoning, s&p, but the exact proportions are a mystery. Srsly, though: I look forward all year to this stuffing, and I did not leave the table disappointed.

Later, after we'd slept off our food hangovers and cleaned up, we saw Four Christmases. I wasn't too eager to see it, not being much of a Vince Vaughn fan (I guess I don't mind Reese Witherspoon?), but it wasn't too bad. I think this assessment was strongly influenced by my initial low expectations, though. Bottom line: Vince Vaughn does and always will play VV, and if you're not in the mood for his schtick, then this is not the holiday movie for you.

Happy post-Thanksgiving kickin' around to all, and to all a good morning! I'm not sure what's on the schedule for today, but I hope it doesn't involve shopping or simple carbohydrates...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Halp.

A minor freakout. The plan was this: the plan was that Ali would work the morning shift today and I would work the morning shift today, and in the afternoon we would tidy the house/purchase last minute groceries/get our holiday wine situation in order/BAKE. As it turns out, Ali's [admittedly-fickle] boss called her in for a double shift today, and A. will be working until at least 10pm. = UGH.

I know I'll be able to get all this stuff done by myself, but I am filled with loathing at the thought of grocery shopping on the day before Thanksgiving. How was I to know that I'd use most of the milk I'd intended for stuffing? Or that my mom no longer likes salad mix and wants bunches of red leaf lettuce and romaine? = UGH. On top of all this, I was hoping to get at least 1/3 of my student papers graded; looks like that won't be happening.

Ah, well. Things could be worse: the house could still be in the state it was Sunday morning. We could have forgotten the turkey, or the pie crusts. I could be one of those people who feels guilty about taking a long time to grade (hah). But, none of these things are true. So, I'll forge through the next three.five hours of work, and then it's prep time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PS:

Man, I just used the word "hair" a lot.
But what other choice did I have?

Hair-i-lujah

I think I've found a winner for Best Local Salon. After working the 12 to 2 shift yesterday at the Grad Conference Bake Sale, I headed to The Lift in Easthampton for a simple trim. I shouldn't say "headed to," since my trip was circuitous and I stopped twice for directions: once at a strip mall dry cleaning shop just over the Southampton border, and once at a weird machine shop type deal right near the Easthampton roundabout. Finally, though, I made it to Eastworks, an old home-goods factory recently converted into shops/galleries. I'd somehow managed, in my two.five years living here, never to visit Eastworks, but I'd like to go back. True, the few shops I passed en route to the salon appeared to peddle mostly "country-cutesy" gift items, but the galleries might be interesting.

Anyway: The Lift. Decor is pleasant: leather chairs in the waiting area, blond wood, grape-cluster shaped lamps hung above the reception counter. The chairs at the shampoo station are massage chairs (a la Sharper Image or whatevs), and I was given a warm towel for my eyes as my hair was shampooed. Product line: Bumble & Bumble. My stylist was friendly, not too pushy, and didn't take too much off the ends.

But there's more. In addition to having my ends trimmed, I had a special conditioning treatment applied to my hair, and oh. My. God. I don't think my hair has ever been so smooth and shiny. Not even when I was a kid, and had yet to damage my hair with heat tools and processing. This treatment, which reinvigorated my hair with protein, effectively repairing the cuticle(s), is something I would have poo-poohed a few years ago, but no longer. I even asked if I could buy this wonderful protein serum and treat my own hair, but I guess the product is only available for use in salons, so powerful it is.

Bottom line: if you're in Easthampton and needing a haircut (or treatment), head on over to The Lift. The staff are friendly, the wait time is short, the products they use are great, and they're considerably cheaper than other places in the area.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back to reality.

Yesterday I was a total slob: slovenly in the way I haven't been in at least a year. Saturday night, we (Ali, Eric, and I) threw a surprise birthday party for Sara, which was pretty badass. We had decorations (balloons, streamers, birthday banner), a full nacho/taco bar, a cake shaped like North Dakota, and plenty of boozes. The revelry lasted well into the night, then the later night, then the morning, and before we all knew it, it was five. Hence the subsequent slobbery.

Mostly I like to be awake and alert early: I'll wake up at 5:30 or 6, check email, eat breakfast, putter around, go to the gym, and so on. But yesterday, sleeping until 2, driving to BK still in my fleece pants, eating on the couch while staring at the blank TV, and not showering until 5:30 were the only acceptable choices. To be fair, I wasn't wholly unproductive: Ali and I cleaned up all the party-related mess (A. even got a Swiffer mop for the job: the mop is awesome), watched "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (I would have resisted if I weren't such a zombie), baked for the grad conference bake sale (today!), and I did some homework for practicum. We also finished our Thanksgiving shopping, which took an hour or two longer than it should have, due to our hazy fascination with the just shelved Xmas merch. And our haziness in general.

If there's one thing I learned, it's that fleece pants are the greatest invention ever. I've never owned a pair before, but I'm starting to think I should pick up a few more in different colors. Has slovenliness invaded my life? Only time will tell...

Friday, November 21, 2008

RAAAAH!

Again: RAAAAAH! Damn, it is Friday, and I'm more excited than I normally am on Friday mornings because this week was a minor shitstorm. So, hallelujah to doneness: doneness of the week. I'm freaking out a little because I didn't sleep well last night, I think I might be getting sick again (despite my efforts to chug as much Emergen-C as humanly possible), and there's revelry planned for the days to come. Not to mention all the stuff that needs to be done for Thanksgiving: a thorough cleaning of the house (so that my mom does not think that A. and I live in total squalor, which we sometimes do & which I HATE), purchasing of all the T-day foodstuffs, decorating of our mini-tree. The mini-tree (3' tall) is mostly decorated, being that there are so few branches. But, finishing touches.

Ali and I might get our turkey today, before all the turkeys are sold out. I wanted to pre-order a fresh, local bird, but my mom was like, "meh," and Ali doesn't eat meat, so frozen it is. Our fridge is pretty full, so Eric has graciously volunteered the bottom shelf of his fridge for the defrosting process.
ALSO: Has anyone ever cooked a turkey in a crock pot? My mom wanted us to do this (we were initially planning to get a turkey breast, rather than a whole bird), but I don't think it will work. Guess it's time to buy a roasting pan...

Monday will bring haircut joy! Or, trim joy, since Project Long Shiny Ponytail is still underway. My hair is longer than ever, but the last time I got it trimmed was late September & the ends are starting to look a little frazzled. Going to The Lift in Easthampton, based on LDS' recommendation. Excitement!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hugh Jackman is the sexiest man alive?
99% of the time, People magazine does not occupy my consciousness. In fact, I would not have known that the "sexiest" rankings had been reassigned for the year, but en route to checking my Yahoo mail I stumbled upon the story and of course had to read enough of the article to find out WHO IS THE SEXIEST MAN. Hugh Jackman? Really? At least it's not Daniel Craig. Several ladies in my workshop were discussing how "shopworn" and "ripped" he is, and though I agree that he is both of these things, I could not chime in with agreement that he is "hot." He's old! (Or "shopworn," some would say.) And he has a weird face with a too-pointy chin. Abs and biceps be damned, I cannot give my full approval.

Part of my resistance to People's "Hottest" rankings is the fact that they're ranking celebrities: people whose very livelihood depends on their statistically-improbable physical goodness. If People ranked random dudes (perhaps sharing a common geographical location, or occupation (other than celeb)), maybe I'd be interested. Or less disinterested than I am now. But celebrities? Of course they're better looking than we are: it's their job.

Enough of that nonsense. I've got Retinol-enhanced eye creams to research.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Um, yeah: I just slammed my fingertips in a key drawer, and my hand FUCKING HURTS.
Monday, everyone. Everyone, Monday.

I'm getting pretty excited for Thanksgiving, though up to this point I was feeling fairly nonchalant about the whole affair. That's the nice part about holidays: the excitement doesn't set in until a week or so before (1.5 wks, in my case) but when it does, it does for real. This is going to be the first T-day I've had away from my childhood home; my feelings about this are mixed. I realize that it's more economically sound for my mom to come visit me and my sis, rather than flying the two of us home. I'm a little sad that I won't be celebrating Midwest style, but I'm also a wee bit gleeful about having T-day dinner in my own apartment. Ali and I have already started planning the menu, and shopped around for turkeys this weekend. BOOYAH!

I'm considering taking a step that I've never taken before (in terms of my personal appearance, that is). Folks, I'm going to buy bronzer. It is true that most of my life, summers excluded, I've been pale as hell, prompting some of my friends to consider me "white as the driven snow." It's time, I think, to abandon my corpseness and enliven my complexion. I'm anti-tanning, but bronzer I think I can deal with. I'll keep you posted on the progress of this journey.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Birthday wishes! And one harvest recipe.

Glad tidings to LDS, who celebrates her birthday today! Last night was the party proper, which was excellent because of (but not solely because of) great company, Dark and Stormies*, and a soundtrack feat. MIA. Hellz yes. HELLZ YES! I did stay out later than I have pretty much all semester (rolled into bed around 2:30), and today I dragged. In fact, I considered going to bed about half an hour ago, but remembered [thankfully] that I offered to pick E. up from work at 10. Ah, exhaustion. Despite my less-than-optimal state, I managed to do my grocery shopping, read a workshop story, sort through a massive pile of paperwork, and go to the gym. Not bad, considering.

Also, I cooked a legit harvest dish tonight: sauteed Swiss chard w/sweet potatoes. My mom made this a lot when I was a kid, and though I didn't really dig the greens, I loved the bite-sized pcs. of sweet potato. Here's the recipe:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1/3 c. apple cider
1 cup chopped sweet potato (tiny cubes work best)
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped
seasonings to taste

In a 10" skillet, cook the onions in the oil until said onions are soft but not browned (about 4 minutes). Once onions are soft, add cider and sweet potatoes. Cook sweet potatoes until they are tender (about 5 minutes). If cider evaporates before potatoes are cooked, add a few tablespoons of water. Once potatoes are cooked, add the Swiss chard, cover the skillet, and cook 3-5 minutes (until the chard is wilted). Season to taste; serve immediately.

That's the gist of the recipe, anyway - I am reclining in bed now and was too lazy to find the printed version, whose wording might be a little, uh, more professional. I should note that the real recipe only calls for 1/3 c. cider, but I used 1/2 (because I had more than 1 c. of taters, and because the bunch of chard I used was larger than average). ALSO: in terms of seasoning, I used garlic powder (shaken liberally), fresh ground pepper, fresh ground sea salt. YUM. One other thing: I used a 13" skillet, which verged on being too small. Next time, will use the wok.

Well, I'm off to find an activity that will keep me awake for the next hour or so. Toodles.

*Almost forgot to explain. The Dark and Stormy is possibly my new favorite boozy beverage, composed of rum and ginger beer (in roughly equal parts). Sweet - but not cloyingly so - and lip-tingling, it is perfect for a rainy fall night.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Indeed, it is that point in the semester where it's all I can do to prevent myself from constantly obsessing about the impending winter recess. The days are getting shorter, the air is ass-cold, the workload gets heavier by the hour. Yeah. I'm staying in Western MA for winter break, and I'm not predicting that this stretch of time will be, in and of itself, awesome. What will be awesome is the cessation of most formal duties. Amen! Already, I'm planning little projects for myself: some knitting, some crafting of Xmas tree ornaments (from felt). Some other stuff? I recently found a recipe for phyllo dough Apple turnovers that I'd really like to try, and come to think of it, I'll probably do that this weekend, not this December.

This upcoming recess is my potentially last winter break ever. I say potentially because, from time to time, I toy with the idea of applying to various other advanced degree programs, once I get the heck out of here. In the event that I enroll in another program, the cycle of academic holidays will reinstate itself. But for now, work in the real world looms on the horizon: a real world without winter break.

Right now I'm reading Oliver Sacks' "An Anthropologist on Mars." I'm a big fan of Sacks not only because of my fondness for "pop" psychology (& related areas), but because of his approach to writing about neurological disorders: rather than focusing on the negative aspects of the disorders he studies - which would be easy to do, given the symptoms of some of them - he writes about what new abilities (creative, perceptual) these neurological changes engender in his patients. Of course, Sacks doesn't deny the real pain these diseases cause his patients, and fairly portrays the hardships his patients must endure en route to recovery; but that he can find positives at all in brain trauma is admirable.

Beyond tonight, weekend plans are nebulous. I'm stuck on this turnover idea, though: so maybe the pastries will materialize.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sightings:

1) On campus, walking from work to the bus stop, I saw a black squirrel. Admittedly, it could have been the darkest gray - it was lit from behind, and I was walking quickly. But then again, it was a dark enough gray to disguise itself as black.

2) Walking home from the bus stop, I found a dead squirrel at the base of an oak. (OK, I actually almost stepped on it. Gross. I know.) I've been called "the bird whisperer" for my uncanny ability to locate dead birds wherever I happen to be, but perhaps this title could be amended to "the bird and squirrel whisperer."
(PS: I'm not sure what the "whisperer" has to do with anything...a conflation of "The Horse Whisperer" and "The Sixth Sense," maybe? Because I don't communicate with dead animals: I just see them (all the time) on the street.)

3) While out checking the mail, I saw a train pass by. And on that train? You got it: a hobo. Probably not a real hobo, as there was no evidence of a bindle. But there was definitely a person, fleece and beanie clad, just sitting and chilling just before the linkage between cars. This is when I wish my train terminology were better: the cars were the sort used to transport ore: almost like troughs on wheels. But these "troughs" were mounted on wheeled platforms (more platform space at each end of the car), and it was on this "platform" that the passenger was riding. The train was pretty slow moving and I thought (briefly) about jumping it myself, but decided not to. After all, there are student papers to grade.

Friday, November 7, 2008

And another thing:

Lately I have this urge to go West: preferably to Idaho or Montana. I'm not talking about moving: just a weeklong trip. I haven't been in the West in the fall for a long time, but I'm ready.
Man, it's only November 7th, and already I've failed to reach my goal of updating every day. Oops. Yesterday was the busiest of all days, though: did a little last-minute lesson planning in the A.M., kept changing outfits because the weather was unseasonably freaking warm/muggy, went to acupuncture, taught my classes, and then Eric and I celebrated our 1.5 yr. anniversary(!) We went to dinner at Caminito, an Argentinian steakhouse here in Noho, and the food was delicious: I ordered Brochette de Lomo (filet and assorted veggies on skewers, served on a bed of seasoned jasmine rice). I do love cooking, but every so often it's nice to go out for a really well-prepared meal. Especially since I do not cook filet for myself. (Heh.)

Afterward, we drank a little wine and watched a little "How I Met Your Mother," which is surprisingly entertaining. I must say, I had my doubts about this show, but Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris do deliver. And now, we have only one episode left of season one: onward & upward to season two! (If there is one. Which I think there is, but I'm not positive. Which, if there isn't, will require us to find and latch onto a new series-on-DVD. Which most likely won't be "24," because I also have my doubts about that show.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

IS WIN!

I didn't go out to watch election news last night: my workshop ended at 9:15 so I didn't get home 'til ten, and after an 8-hour day on campus...yadda yadda. In reality, I wanted to go to bed and wake up to discover (Xmas-style) who the new president elect was. You know, surprise! After I returned home, got ready for bed, and read for a while, I tried to fall asleep: to no avail. People were running down the street screaming; cars were honking their horns. Riot-like, or riotous. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard. Anyway, I'd left my phone on vibrate, so when Obama won I got a flurry of texts that woke me from my [light] slumber.

Excitement!

Also exciting, but on a less-national level: I just got an album of Vivaldi's cello concertos, which I'm listening to now. Perfect lesson planning music...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm making it my goal (or one of my goals: one of my short-term goals) to update every day in November, in honor of National Blog Posting Month. Hopefully, I will not cop out too often by posting pictures of jewelry I covet, but you know. Monday morning. The creative juices aren't flowing just yet. (Aside: isn't this necklace perfectly autumnal? BAUBLES.)

It's a plain fact that I never get as much done on the weekends as I plan to, despite my best time-management efforts. This weekend was no different, but I'm more satisfied with how I used my time since I did a wide variety of things: completed a workshop critique/letter, graded a bunch of student papers, took a mini-shopping trip, got coffee and a sandwich with H., researched possible alternative career paths. Went to the gym (x2). Went out Friday night (w. Sis and Eric) to Fitzwilly's. Went out Saturday evening (w. Sis and Eric) to the Hangar. Read. Baked cookies and watched a movie. Talked to my mom. I'm coming to realize that my sense of productivity isn't shaped as much by how much academic work I get done - else this weekend might have seemed like a failure: oops - but by the variety of things I do. It's all about balance, I guess.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

PS: These are [were] our pumpkins...

Continuing...

Continuing with last night's documentation of my musical confusion, I should mention that in most cases I mis-identify Madonna as Cher (and vice versa). I believe this is a result of my musical innocence as a kid: I was not allowed to listen to either artist when I was very young, and my parents also didn't listen to these artists, and I never developed an affinity for the music of either. So, I've pretty much been in the dark re: Madonna, Cher. Deliberately, of course, for the past several years: but still.

It could also be the case that I have a misfiring, music identification neuron, or something. Meh.

Today, I would really prefer to 1) sit around my house and 2) knit while 3) watching "How I Met Your Mother," but I think instead I have to 1) get my ass in gear and 2) head over to the Smith library before all the tables in the periodicals room are claimed and then 3) grade an asston of student papers. Divergent planz, to be sure. I may still have time this evening for some good ol' fashioned bummery, but bummery is how I spent my entire Saturday. Order is in order.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This is embarrassing:

OK: I'm willing to admit this in a public forum:

I did not know (until tonight) that "Lay Lady Lay" is sung by Bob Dylan. To me, it always sounds like Eric Clapton, or someone random & unidentified. Kermit the Frog, maybe. It does not sound like Dylan. Anyone with me on this? Ali and Eric seem to think I'm a freak.

Friday, October 31, 2008

BOO.

Happy Halloween! No big plans for this creepiest of holidays. I'm at work now. Later, am going to the career center for some job hunt ideas (uh...trick or treat?). E. and I are going to Paradise City for dinner tonight, and we carved some pumpkins yesterday...but that's about it. October somehow blew past me this year, and here it is, the very last day of the month, and I do not have a costume! C'est la vie. At least we will have Jack O' Lanterns in the window.

The best news: I finally got my cowboy boots fixed(!) The boots, which I bought at a vintage shoe store in Berlin, had needed new heels since I purchased them. Mostly due to laziness (but also owing to the fear I had that the heels might be irreplaceable), I never took them to a shoe shop. Last week, I caved and brought them to Shu-Fix, a tiny, family-owned shop right across the street from my old apartment. I was skeptical about the potential outcome of this venture - the heels were really jacked. But, the people at Shu-Fix are magic. The boots look practically new! (I am serious: the guy polished the hell out of them, so they're not only shiny but have a reddish hue.) I am the happiest, since I have a deep appreciation for these cowboy boots. The end!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Overcoming Sarah Marshall

I haven't been too good about watching my Netflix selections lately (and by "lately" I'm referring to the last two months); I've had "Scenes From a Marriage" and "The 400 Blows" just chilling in my living room for a good month or so. But this weekend, E. and I ended the movie drought and rented "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" (in honor of Halloween) and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." As many of you know, I'm [legit] afraid of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and the sequel seemed pretty promising, being that Dennis Hopper is billed as the main character - a revenge-driven Texas lawman who plans to confront the cannibalistic family with his own "high octane saws." Yeah! Sadly, the movie was a total bust, for a few reasons:

1) Rather than remaining in their isolated, meat-thermometer-ridden farmhouse, Leatherface & co. had set up shop in an abandoned theme park ("Texas Battleland"). Admittedly, abandoned theme parks are creepy, but this one was so large - had so many distinct chambers/nooks/crannies - that is was hard to visualize as a whole. Consequently, when Stretch was running from Leatherface et. al., her escape seemed more probable: more tunnels/dark corners = more places to hide, right?
Contributing to the failure of the theme park setting were the hokey decorations everywhere: strings and strings of Xmas lights (wtf??), skeletons set up in weird displays (i.e., two skeletons in swimsuits, sitting in folding chairs beneath a beach umbrella). Part of what made the original Chainsaw Massacre so creepy was the unstructured, unstudied feel of the family's farmhouse: yes, there were chairs made out of bones, but mostly there were weird butcher's tools and meat hooks everywhere. Xmas lights just aren't that scary.

2) In this incarnation of the TCM, Leatherface is a little in love with Stretch, the woman he is supposed to slaughter. His warm feelings toward his would-be victim cause him to help stretch hide from his crazy-ass family and ultimately escape. I'm not promoting needless chainsaw violence, here, but this is a horror movie, right? Right?

3) Dennis Hopper was barely in the movie, despite his billing as a main character. I was pretty psyched for DH's performance, acknowledging his potential for creepiness, made evident in "Blue Velvet." Inexplicably, Hopper features in all of three scenes, though he's made out to be the focus of the film. Again: wtf?

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," on the other hand, was a lot better than I expected. Sure, I thought it would be funny, but funny in a "Superbad," inundation of penis-jokes sort of way. The script was pretty good, the characters were more nuanced than the previews made them out to be, and the Dracula musical was badass. All of these things couldn't help me remember the movie's title, though, which I've alternately referred to as "Getting Over Sarah Marshall," "Overcoming Sarah Marshall," and "Losing Sarah Marshall." Oooops.

Friday, October 24, 2008

ALSO:

My engine light came back on. D'oh.
Another week, another dollar, or something like that. I've been meaning to update since last weekend, but...it was just another of those crazy weeks. I'm surprised I had time for acupuncture.

Last weekend, Eric and I went to Concord. We only spent a day there (I being eternally tethered to Noho by thesis duties & therefore unable to spend more than 24 hours away from my computer: dramz), but managed to see most of the things we wanted: The Old Manse, the Old North Bridge, Author's Ridge (in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery), The Orchard House (L.M Alcott's adult home), Walden Pond, and The Wayside (where L.M. Alcott lived as a child). Of these, my favorite was the Wayside, where the Hawthornes and the Lothrops also lived at various points in history. I guess Nat Hawthorne was "obsessed" (tour guide's words) with Gothic architecture, so he added a three-story Gothic-style tower in the middle of the house. A son of one of the home's subsequent owners then painted a mural on the ceiling of this tower: pastoral scenes dedicated to Hawthorne. Another high point was visiting Walden Pond at dusk: the air held a nice chill, the water lost its reflection, the pines were dark. We got some great pictures - which, of course, I haven't yet gotten around to posting. Sigh.

The only downside of the trip (besides not being able to stay longer) was lunch. E. and I went to the Walden Grille, which we'd read about online & which looked like a decent place. WRONG! This was the worst food I've had in a restaurant in maybe three years. E. ordered his burger medium and got a hockey puck; I ordered a chicken wrap, and both the wrap and the chicken had the consistency of leather. (Well, I guess the wrap's consistency was more like parchment, but anyway...) Our fries had clearly been "re-fried" - having worked as a short order cook in college, I know these things. And on top of this all, our waitress was rude!
Just a warning: if you find yourself in Concord at lunchtime, avoid this place at all costs.

This weekend doesn't promise to be as exciting, though I guess I shouldn't nay-say before it happens. Last night, Lisha hosted a knitting/YouTube viewing session, which was excellent and relaxing. I couldn't believe how long it had been since I'd knit, but I got back into the swing of it [fairly] easily and made some progress on a scarf that I started back in '05. Heh.Who knows? This might be the year that I actually finish a scarf...

Friday, October 17, 2008

The miracle need not be explained:

My life has taken a turn for the miraculous: my car's engine light unprecipitatedly went off. For those not familiar with this mechanical mini-saga, my car's engine light went on in early August and stayed on, even after a diagnostic at the dealership and my purchase of a new gas cap. I was freaked out at first, not wanting to inadvertently wreck my not-quite-paid-off car, but this anxiety waned as friends and friends told me that, really, this glitch is nothing to worry about.

I hadn't thought about the light in a long time. As I was driving to campus yesterday, something seemed amiss with my dash panel. It took me a minute to realize that the engine light was absent (so used to looking at it I had become!), and that chances of imminent mechanical failure had just decreased like, tenfold.

Hallelujah.

Sys and I are having a "harvest potluck" tonight, in appreciation of 1) Autumn! 2) Friday 3) Delicious fall cooking. On the menu are:

Country style pork ribs
Stuffed mushrooms (vegetarian and non)
Ali's famous cheesy, oniony mashed potatoes
Pumpkin cake
[Possibly] Corn bake
Spiced cider

Perhaps the only thing I like as much as walking in the fall is cooking in the fall. Lovely, the warm home and aromatic sage and onions, cinnamon and cloves.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Domo!

So I lied: Target did have one Domo left, and I got it(!) This li'l guy has Devil horns, a red tail, and a cape. Adorable! Yesterday, Ali was at the video store returning some movies, and she found a Domo poster for $4, which she then purchased for me. The poster now hangs in the kitchen right behind the table. Niiiice.

So much Domo. But there can never be too much Domo.

In other, non-cartoon-related news, Ali and I signed up to run a 5K (the Hot Chocolate Run) in December. The run is being held to benefit a local women's shelter, and though Ali and I are not the most confident in our running skillz, the event is for a good cause. Plus, we both felt that if we have a goal/defined deadline for meeting said goal, we might become more serious about running. Hence, the impulsive sign up. I will admit: I'm nervous about this, but if this nervousness propels me to train (as I predict it will), then everything will be fine.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Domo!

Lately, I am obsessed with this little guy: Domo-Kun. I don't know much about his origins (or backstory, to toss around fiction lingo), but Target was carrying adorable Halloween-themed Domo stuffed toys, and I really wanted one, and now they're sold out and not available online. A dorky plight, to be sure, but this morning's internet (in)activity is going to involve rooting around for Domo-themed goods.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

There's a frenzy a'brewin'

For the past few days, none other than Mel Gibson has been shooting scenes in Northampton for his new movie. I haven't seen him, but traces of him are everywhere: in the cops positioned on the street corners, in the crooked signs pointing the way to extras' parking. People are buzzing. This morning, on the corner across from my apartment, four or five cops stood in a huddle, guarding what appeared to be some sort of DJ tent. (You know, those tarp-sided tents used to house DJs at outdoor festivals?) Some sort of early-morning party? I wondered. Or audio equipment, being preemptively protected from rain that has not yet fallen? I don't think today is capable of rain, it being the most gorgeous, sharp-edged sort of October day. But you never know.

It's getting cold here. Evidently, our heat has been turned on, and I shouldn't' say "evidently" because it would be a hell of a lot colder if there were no heat. But, Ali has been keeping track of the temp. in her room & it hasn't gotten above 68. What's going to happen in the winter? she wonders. I wonder, too, because 68 is not warm enough for lizard blooded people like myself. Incidentally, 68 is the minimum temperature at which rental properties must be kept during the winter months (according to the Board of Health, whom I contacted last winter).

Alice is in town! For yesterday and today. We're going to bum around the downtown this afternoon, maybe get ourselves some pastries, check out the foliage, & so on. Friends!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I am exhausted, sitting here on the couch, slowly grading papers while E. watches the Wisconsin game. Stayed up much later last night than intended, dancing with D. and S. and E. to Eminem (around the kitchen table, oh yes) and drinking champagne. Random? Roast turned out well: better than well. The four of us ate all of it, and kept wishing another roast would regenerate from the coagulated drippings. For real. Today, I am still wishing there were another roast, though there are plenty of leftover sweet potatoes.
Dishes stacked in the drainer, dark kitchen. A very physical football game. Woodsmoke smell wafting from another direction. A goal of three more papers tonight. A goal.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The windiest month.

I'm, uh, back from Madison, though if I'd stayed, would anyone have found it surprising? Wisconsin remains as awesome as in my memory: rolling green and wide, faintly cow-smelling, the September sky muted. Sunday, Eric and I bummed for a few hours in Madison, getting lunch at State Street Brats (cheese curds!), browsing the bookstore, just walking. Janesville, too made me homesick: for apple picking, Sunday dinners, backyards.

Nostalgiafest 2008, it's true. This week, I even browsed Madison real estate...

In other news, Darren and Sara are coming over for dinner tonight, and here's what's on the menu:

Roast pork loin (with carrots and onions)
Mashed sweet potatoes
Salad with apple-walnut dressing
Bread (to be purchased from the Hungry Ghost)
Sweet potato pie (not homemade, admittedly...)

A little sweet potato heavy, I admit, but I'd already planned to make the mashed 'taters when I saw the pie and I thought, "What the hell! I love sweet potatoes!" And therefore, so must everyone else. I may have misplaced the recipe for the dressing, but I should be able to find it before dinnertime. Fingers crossed.
But, I'm pretty excited to cook this roast: roasts are the perfect indicator of fall and all the excellent cold-weather cooking to come.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vaca!

Not a true vacation, but off to Madison for four days!
(!)
Post and pictures upon return.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I was shocked to hear about David Foster Wallace. Yesterday morning, I had the TV on as I puttered around the living room. I was halfheartedly watching a morning soft-news program, but devoting most of my energy to rearranging the bookshelf. A slide show came on the screen: pictures of a silent-film star and stills from her movies, then a picture of DFW. Then, "In Memoriam." I thought, This must be a fluke, so I called Eric and asked him if DFW was dead. "I don't think so," E. said, "but maybe you should check the internet."

Some people seem to me perplexingly immortal: their particular personalities [those they share with the public] and histories of accomplishment make them seem, to my mind, unable to die. This isn't repression or immaturity on my part: now, more than ever, I've been thinking about mortality (my own, that of those close to me) and how its nearness accelerates the older I get. I wouldn't say I've grown accustomed to the thought of my own death, but I'm acclimating. Despite my very logical understanding of the necessity of death, I still experience cognitive aberrations. DFW existed for me as one such aberration.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This afternoon, having completed my sundry errands - grocery shopping for the week, picking up a few school supplies, dropping off library books, mailing a letter - I returned home and opened a beer. The beer was an Opa-Opa IPA. It was my intention to sip said beer while starting a new book - Joan Didion's The White Album - in the few quiet hours before dinner. The beer was bad: undrinkably bad. I dumped it down the sink and had seltzer, instead.

I used to love IPA. I distinctly remember, on more than one occasion during my first year of grad school, proclaiming that IPA was my "new favorite beer." What's going on, here? Does Opa-Opa's version just suck? Do I have rapid-cycling changes of my taste buds? Maybe I'm having an off day.

It fascinates me to remember the foods and beverages I used to love which I now approach with lukewarm enthusiasm: Gardetto's snack mix, Sunny Delight, pickled beets, any variety of personal-size frozen pizza. Sweet wine. Microwave popcorn. Diet Coke. This exercise begs the question: what do I like?
Here are a few: sharp Vermont cheddar, Belgian whites, fresh corn, snap peas, pumpkin anything. Some Cabernet Sauvignons. Chocolate with a 70% or higher cocoa content. Red licorice. Seltzer. The list continues.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Decision!

A decision has been reached: I'm going to get my hair trimmed (not cut: trying to preserve some length, here) and highlighted. I'll likely go with a combination of highlights (honeyish shades) and lowlights (two shades darker than my natural color), making sure the strands of color are thin, as to be less apparent against my "real" hair. Thank you to those who shared their insight: sometimes, a little advice from friends is all one needs in revamping one's hair.

I have still not decided whether to get bangs cut, but I have time to consider and reconsider my options.

It's strange: I began dyeing my hair in high school, using drugstore color, and have dyed it fairly steadily ever since, but I don't consider myself - think of myself - as someone with dyed hair. Two factors lead to this misclassification: first, I don't dye my hair very often. (Embarrassingly, the last time I got highlights was January. Ouch.) The infrequency - or sporadicness, I should say - of coloring allows me to think of the process as an action of whimsy rather than a ritual or tradition. Second, I've never dyed my hair a "weird" color; Manic Panic wasn't allowed in my house, and after I turned twelve, I never had much desire for hair in a non-natural shade. Having hair that's "naturally" tinted, even if the tint isn't natural to my head, lets me feel a little less conspicuous.

Where was I going with this?

Yes: I'm really looking forward to these highlights. I used to love getting haircuts, and since I'm letting my hair grow out (i.e., no longer getting cuts), I've missed that specific excitement which accompanies ever-so-slightly modifying one's appearance.

Anyways: today is my last day of summer work. (Aside: I will be working in the key office one day/week during the school year.) I really can't believe that school starts on Tuesday - it barely feels like we're done with July - but start it will. And I'll have to be ready. Have been under the weather for the past few days; I hope to catch up on sleep and chug Emergen-C this weekend to recuperate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Decisions, decisions.

Friends, I'm at an impasse: I don't know what to do with my hair.

For the longest time (i.e., the last month), I've wanted bangs: swoopy, sideswept bangs that would miraculously stay out of my eyes. My hesitation? I'm not sure that my hair is long enough to complement these dreamed-of bangs. You see, my hair is still only a bit longer than shoulder-length. Yes: I've been growing out my hair for at least 1.5 years, and it's still only this long. Be that as it may, I don't want to look like a weird schoolgirl, or just someone with no sense of hair proportion.

My other idea is to have my highlights redone. I like highlights (even in the fall and winter, when even the subtlest light-tones are conspicuously man-made), and I know that having them done again would make my hair "new," which is probably what I'm seeking in bangs. What to do? I realize these paragraphs are filled with the abstraction of my hair: what it actually looks like. I could post a picture, but that would require me to take one/have one taken, and then upload it. BAH. This is getting too complicated!

Just expect that I'll be undergoing major hair renovations in the near future.

Knox people! Who among you are going to homecoming? (I'm not sure that people will answer this, but I thought I'd throw the question out there.) I'd like to go to homecoming, but am not sure of how practical the trip would be. Since I'm not old enough to rent a car, I'd have to coordinate my arrival with someone who could drive me to the wonderful 'burg. And, I'm not sure who's going. Still: KNOX COLLEGE AND HALLOWEEN WEEKEND!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rabbit.

I'm about halfway through Rabbit is Rich and am totally obsessed with it: to the point that I want to secretly read while my boss is out of the office. To the point that (yesterday afternoon), instead of attacking the massive list of chores I've been meaning to do all week, I made some tea and read until dinnertime. I am forcing myself to read slowly and relish each sentence. This is difficult for me, with my tendency toward speed reading. (Aside: I don't remember in what context I learned to speed read, but I think it was taught in middle school. In conjunction, perhaps, with typing?) But I'm doin' it.

The other day at work, I Wikipediaed Updike and was surprised to read that "some people" have criticized his work for being too rambling: sprawling. Here's the exact quote:

Updike is one of the most exquisite masters of prose style produced by 20th century America. Yet, his novels have been faulted for lacking any sense of action or character development. It appears at times that his ability to spin lovely phrases of delicate beauty and nuance overwhelm his desire to tell a simple, important story in the lives of his characters.

Whaaaaaa? First off, I know I shouldn't have expected to find serious, peer-reviewed lit-crit on Wikipedia - and I didn't expect this, actually - but... But. The above statements are just so global and unevinced. I mean, "any sense of action or character development" - is it possible for a work to lack entirely a sense of action? Even a speaker's leap from one thought pattern to another could classify as action. So, yeah. I don't know about Wikipedia.

What miffed me more, though, is Wiki's assessment of "no character development." I don't know about y'all, but to my mind, Rabbit Angstrom is one of the best American characters: ever. By "best," I mean not only most convincing (i.e., having consistent personality traits, seemingly-logical or consistent lines of reasoning, resembling an actual person), but most likely to earn my sympathy as a reader. I don't, on a superficial level, want to identify with/feel empathy for Rabbit: he's philandering, mildly overweight, a car salesman. But he's human, and his actions are presented in the context of his complete environment, which, having been developed for hundreds and hundreds of pages, and several decades, provides the reader a means to more profoundly understand Rabbit's motivations. Rabbit, like all of us, is inextricable from his environment; Updike's meticulous attention to environmental detail - the rings left on the patio table by a sweating glass, or a woman's constellation of freckles - suffuses his work, and informs the [psychic, physical] motion of his characters.
***
Today is legit sweatshirt weather! (Last night was also sweatshirt weather, but I wasn't so excited then: I haven't taken out my intermediate-weight comforter yet, and I kept waking up because I was cold under my summer blanket.) Soon, it will be time for a trip to the apple orchard, and for pumpkin carving, and for pies.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The awkward hush.

My latest obsession? Totem poles and shame poles. I spent a goodly chunk of time on Friday afternoon doing internet research, learning the basics about both types of poles, and even finding an artist who, for 1,000 Canadian dollars/foot, will custom-make totem poles.
So there you go.
I consider myself a more-or-less disciplined person: I clean the house once a week as a matter of habit, have begun flossing semi regularly, have curtailed my Dorito consumption, and so on, and so forth. Successful regulation of adult life. But there are some tasks which, despite the minimal amount of time and effort they would require, I just keep putting off. For example: I usually don't get my car's oil changed when an oil change is actually due; I invariably postpone said change until I'm afraid that the mechanic will shame me for taking such bad care of my car. (This happens about 1,000 to 2,000 miles after a scheduled oil change.) This weekend, I was cleaning my room (see? discipline) and happened to be dusting my boxes of letters when I thought, "Wow, I really should just buy one large storage box for all my letters." I've come to this realization many times since college, but never have I purchased the larger box. Is it because I prefer to store these letters in scattered, crappy-looking vessels?* No. Is it because a new box would be costly, or difficult to find? Probably not. So what's holding me back? I realize this is a trifling matter, and that I'm starting to talk at length here. It just perplexes me that there are certain tasks that, without fail, cause me to dig in my heels.
A hazy, meandering weekend. Worked a bit on a short story, but set it aside again because it's becoming an entirely different story, and I need to think about where it's going. Watched "Old School" for the first time (zow!) and a few Olympic events: women's marathon at home, Saturday night (it was awesome), equestrian stuff whilst at the gym. Oh, and men's swimming. Yes. Got some peaches at the farmers' market and am waiting for them to ripen. Rode my bike, with Ali, to Maple Farm Foods and bought some excellent grapes. Started reading Rabbit is Rich. Mailed letters.
It's starting to seem like fall.
*Most of my letters are divided among three Whitman's sampler boxes, emptied of their contents and cleaned with a damp cloth. I never especially liked Whitman's candies, but got the samplers for their boxes, which are sturdy and easily stacked.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I HATE CATS.

For the most part, I've tried to keep this blog free of bitchery, opting instead to focus on the more positive aspects of my day-to-day life - figs, for example, or bicycling. Or James Tate. Or BBQs. The time has come, however, where the need to bitch has become so pressing that it must necessarily override the "positive" focii of this blog. Yes, friends: I hate my sister's cat.

Shakira, as she's known, doesn't at first seem like the true menace she is. Sure, she's a little clingy, weaving between one's legs as one stumbles to the bathroom in the morning. True, she mews incessantly beginning at 4:30 am (her feeding time?), and during her first week here, she crapped all over the house, forcing Ali to mop five days in a row. But these aren't the things that bother me. What takes the cake is Shakira's habit of wedging her [admittedly rotund] self in partially-opened drawers, making herself comfortable there.

Unfortunately for me, the bottom drawer of my dresser doesn't close all the way; I've tried a few times to fix it, but to no avail. Yesterday, Shak forced her way into my drawer and sunk her claws into my new, strawberry-pink J.Crew sweater. I'm sure she wasn't choosy about which article she destroyed: that yet-unworn sweater just happened to be at the top of the pile. My sister's response to this destruct-o-thon? Laughter. Yes, she found it "cute" and "endearing" that her cat took such a liking to the garment. Ha. Ha. Ali is going to take my sweater to the tailor this weekend to see if (s)he can someone pull the snags in, but if not...new sweater time.

I guess the title of this post is deceptive: I don't hate all cats, just one. But I thought that, while I was being dramatic, why not be real dramatic? You know?

In other news: yesterday I finished reading In Defense of Food. I'm not sure I enjoyed the writing - Pollan seems to belabor certain points, perhaps in an attempt to gain length? - but I found certain examples illuminating. Case in point: "...in the late 1800s five states passed laws requiring that all butter imitations be dyed pink so no one would be fooled" (34). Who knew? I did not. Despite my pseduobalking at certain dry stretches of prose, I was intrigued enough by Pollan's dictum to avoid eating foods with more than five ingredients that I started examining what I have in the pantry. Not good, folks. Not terrible, but I decided to toss my Yoplait Light and buy personal Chobanis, instead. The absence of aspartame was notable.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Solutions!

1. My car is not broken forever & ever! Left it at the Toyota dealership yesterday morning and the mechanic said there was nothing actually wrong with the Corolla - i.e., no reason for the malfunction light to have gone on - except that there was slight corrosion around the gas cap, which may have caused the cap not to sit as tightly in its place as it should. So, the mechanic cleaned the corroded part, reseated the cap, and the light went off. Relief!

2. My figs didn't go to waste! Sunday, I tried this recipe:

ALMOND MUFFINS WITH GOOEY FIG CENTER
(Serves 12)


Ingredients:

Zest of 1 small lemon
1 1/2 cups almond meal (or finely crushed almonds plus 1 tsp flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour (found at health food stores)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
12 small figs, stemmed
1 small egg
1/4 cup clover honey
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/8 cup almond (or toasted almond) oil
6 tbsp sliced almonds

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350°. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. Puree figs in a food processor until smooth and scrape into a small saucepan. Place over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until puree gently boils, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate. Whisk egg, honey, milk and oil in a bowl. Incorporate into flour mixture and blend on low with a hand mixer. Line a muffin tin with paper cups; fill each halfway with batter. Add 1 tbsp fig puree to center of each cup, then cover with a small spoonful of batter. Sprinkle almonds on top. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

I didn't exactly follow the recipe. Not being motivated enough to go to the health food store, I substituted buckwheat flour (which I had on hand) for the oat flour, and really finely chopped almonds (sans flour) for almond meal. Also, canola oil for almond oil (maybe not the best choice). Despite my questionable substitutions/lack of a food processor - I used a potato masher, instead - the muffins turned out really well.

3. Reading The Effect of Living Backwards & loving it. I wish I could be reading now, at work, but it's a little easier to get away with slacking on the computer as opposed to "slacking" by reading. Sigh.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I promise this blog will not just become a photo archive of stuff I want/most likely won't attain, but Hinken just sent me a link to these - a pair of which will set you back $368. Naturally, I had to post. They're the cutest candelabras I've ever seen...but $368? Let me just type that again, for emphasis:

$368.

Now that that's out of my system...

Ali's pretty much moved in and I'm the gladdest she's here - it's been a nonstop nostalgiafest since her arrival. How much gossip from high school can you remember? you might be thinking. The answer? A lot. In all seriousness, though, I am the gladdest. Haven't taken any apartment pics yet, but soon I will. And then I will post the least blurry of the batch.

I haven't tried any new recipes in a little while, though I'm looking for a good way to prepare figs. That's right: I have about 1.5 lbs. of fresh figs that are currently in the fridge, battling spoilage. I rummaged through one of my email accounts and found a recipe for fig muffins, but it requires a bunch of ingredients I don't have, and I'm a wee bit tired to drive to the grocery store at this moment in time. Also [bad news], my car's engine light went on this afternoon, and I don't want to drive until I get it diagnosed on Monday.

Malfunctioning Toyota. Questionable figs. These are the stuff of adult life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coveting:















































(From top: Bubble necklace from J.Crew, Anissa earrings from littlepaperplanes, slub tee and brocade skirt from J.Crew)

SO: even though I mos def do not have $$$ to be spending on clothes/stuff right now, how enviable is the brocade and tee look? Oh, man! Oh, man.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The bad news:

1) I went to the health center on Monday after work, and it appears that I have an overuse injury to the ligaments in my right mid-foot.
2) I am the most tired right now.

The good news:

1) My mom and sis are in Wisconsin! And they will arrive here tomorrow evening.
2) LUNCH.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Loafing.

MY ROOM IS THE HOTTEST THING ON EARTH!

It's true: I have only one fan - an upright variety by the name of "Hawaiian Breeze" - and I think (legit) that I might sweat to death before the evening is over. I've periodically mulled over the possibility of buying an A/C (especially last summer, aka, Suffer-in-the-Extreme-Heat-o-thon-2007), but have always resisted. Because I'm no wuss, right? Well, right now, I am.

Also: WTF is up with "Hawaiian Breeze" as a title? For starters, this li'l machine barely generates more than a whisper, let alone an actual breeze. Secondly: Hawaiian? I've never been to the islands, but I can't think the air there would be sweeter...

But don't mind me: I'm crotchety from having stayed up too late and BBQed a little too enthusiastically, if you catch my drift. Though the weekend as a whole was unproductive, E. and I did get some fresh local peaches at the farmers' market, and I managed to write one whole letter. Not a total loss, then: just partial.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tag cloud for my old blog:



(Makes me wish my thesis were done...)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another week almost gone: six weeks left of summer. I haven't accomplished as much by this point as I'd hoped, in terms of the independent study and assembling/beginning revisions of my thesis. But I've made progress in other areas, namely running. Yes, that's right: I've decided to take up that former pursuit of mine, a decision that surprised even me, as I'd proclaimed (throughout college) that I'd never run again, that only crazy/masochistic people run, and so on, and so forth. I [re]started about two weeks ago, alternating two minutes of running with two of walking, then moving to five of running/two of walking. Now, I'm working on a sequence of ten minutes of running, three of walking. Baby steps, for sure, but a pleasant re-learning.

Saturday, Eric and I spent the day in Brattleboro. Superficially, it seems similar to Northampton: both have a lot of cafes, "quirky," independent shops, pedestrians, strange vagrants lounging on the sidewalks, etc. But, Brattleboro feels decidedly like Vermont: there's a mountain overlooking the town, a cooler breeze in the air, and something else that I couldn't quite identify. Went to a few thrift stores, a bookstore, and a three-story antique center that vaguely reminded me of the Galesburg Antique Mall (but wasn't as good). Attempted to visit the Farmers' Market, which was open as we drove to lunch, but closed as we returned. Walked & bummed, looked at expensive bike gear. Drove home around five and refreshed ourselves with freeze-pops. Farmers' markets always close too early! And freeze-pops have been one of my favorite parts of summer since I was like, six.

Ali arrives in a week! Sooner, possibly - she sets sail on the 22nd. The apartment is mostly organized, the kitchen and living room walls left blank for Ali to decorate. A. shared her recipe for tzatziki with me last night (am planning to make tomorrow evening, to go with falafel):

Ali's Tzatziki
1 lb. Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, grated and drained of liquid
4-5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
salt, pepper, and chopped mint to taste.

Combine yogurt and cucumber; mix well. Add garlic, then oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, mint or dill. Chill before serving.

***
To the weekend: cheers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shoes?

Maybe this is why my foot hurts.
(Or maybe I've just been wearing my flip-flops too often.)
Here it is, a fine Monday almost-noon, and I'm posting from work! (Indeed, there is no work for me to do - I keep asking my boss for assignments, but he has none - so this internet time won't be held against me.) A few tidbits, then:

1) My dad called this weekend to wish me a happy fourth, but also to notify me about this guy, who allegedly killed (among other people) an elderly man behind one of the Galesburg Hy-Vee locations. (Interesting that my dad specified "Hy-Vee," because the grocery store isn't named in the article.)

2) The humidity here has been brutual for the past few weeks, but these resolve the issue of having either 1) to eat out all the time, or 2) to munch on cheese and crackers night after night. Cheers for keeping the kitchen [relatively] cool.

3) Watched Episode One of the HBO John Adams movie last night. Am enjoying it, so far - especially one angry Bostonian's outcry against the British taxation of "the lead in our paint" - but somehow, I can't imagine Abigail Adams as Laura Linney (or vice versa). Maybe I've just seen Linney in too many other, non-historical roles, but I can't wrap my head around the portrayal.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A belated happy Fourth of July! I thought about posting last night (so that these words of good cheer would not, in fact, be belated), but was exhausted & so put the task off 'til today.

Yesterday was, without doubt, one of the best fourths I've had in a long time. Traditionally, my family didn't celebrate the holiday (or celebrate as much as other people I know): we would sometimes take a bike ride to the local DQ for Blizzards, and would usually see the fireworks show at Sand Creek Park, but that was about it. I never minded having low-key Fourth of Julys, but by the same token, I'm always looking for reasons to do fun stuff out of/on the border of the realm of ordinary activity. So, Eric and I met up with Darren and Sara at Mt. Tom [a state park in Easthampton], claimed a picnic site, and grilled all day long. There are many things to love about Mt. Tom, among them its nearness to where we live, the fact that they don't require reservations for picnic spots/they only charge $2 for parking, and that the park is quiet and secluded feeling. E. and I arrived first and saw two deer crossing the road. No other major wildlife sightings, but the deer were pretty cool. There are also many things to love about grilling, namely, porterhouse steaks with A1, brats with perfectly-toasted buns, and all those cold salads we save for the summer months. (The greek pasta salad, though it got soggy as the afternoon progressed, was nonetheless fab.)

Also cool: I tried a few new foods, including cheddarwurst (delicious) and grilled peaches. The peaches, especially, were tasty morsels; in the future, I might gussy them up with some brown sugar or vanilla ice cream. Let's hear it for grilled fruit!

We didn't see any fireworks, but instead rented "Margot at the Wedding." I was really excited for this when it came out and, in keeping with my movie-disorganization, neglected to see it until now. A convincingly abrasive portrait of family "dysfunction," though some parts (for example, the last twenty minutes) dragged. Jack Black's performance was surprisingly good and un-cheesy. My favorites of the movie were the really menacing bits, which usually took place at night: Margot and her husband coming across a frantic woman and her wounded dog on the side of the road, or Margot looking into the neighbors' window to see a carcass wrapped in plastic - a carcass quickly revealed to be a slaughtered pig, and not the neighbors' child, as Margot believes it might be. Baumbach uses visual ambiguity and small leaps in the story's chronology to reproduce in the viewer Margot's desperate and fragmented way of seeing the world: a state of constant tension and attempted revision. I can see why the movie would have gotten mediocre reviews - by the end, which itself was seemingly anti-climactic, I wondered to where else the narrative would ramble - but those certain scenes of menace were really astute.

Not sure what plans the rest of the weekend hold, except for laundry and continued unpacking/setting up of the apartment. Will post pictures once I get the apartment in some sort of order (!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Settling

Well, I'm almost entirely moved in. [Correction: I am moved in, in the sense that all my stuff is at my new place. I just have a minor buttload of unpacking to do, but I don't think that affects my definition of "moved in" - at least, not in any serious way.] The move went really well, for the most part. I didn't rent a truck (my initial plan), but managed to fit all my furniture in my car - minus my dresser, which Eric and I carried from my old home to my new. Strenuous, to say the least, but it's over.

I am obsessed with my new apartment: it has newish hardwood floors (they were put in two years ago), a roomy kitchen, good ventilation, excellent natural light. I'm saving the larger bedroom for my sis - she's slated to move out toward the end of the month - but mine is the room with better windows(!) (Aside: all the windows have windowsills wide enough to put plants on!) Also, the kitchen sink has a garbage disposal: something I never felt I needed, but which is so convenient. The kitchen and my bedroom are mostly set up, but the living room is still bare; I'm waiting 'til Ali arrives to figure out the coffee table/sofa situation.

Last night, I tried this recipe:

TWO-BEAN SALAD WITH BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

1 14- to 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
1 14- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Toss to blend well. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)(Bon Appetit, April 1996)

It was really easy to prepare, and tasty. A little too oniony for my tastes, though I think the onions might not have been chopped finely enough. Next time, either fewer onions or smaller onion bits. I might add crumbled feta, too.

If any of you have good chickpea recipes, share them! I have a surplus of these beans and need some creative ways to prepare them. Over & out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Grunt. Sigh.

Started packing this evening. OK: so I only actually packed one suitcase full of clothes and three boxes of books, but just this little bit of packing made me realize how much stuff I actually have. I mean, I found a belt in my hanging shoe rack that I'd totally forgotten I own. Ack! Granted, the belt was a gift, and is not the right size (so I never wear it), but still...Still. I don't want to be the kind of person who forgets what she has because she has too much.

Another day of heavy rain, though not as heavy as yesterday. Not as heavy as the Midwest. This summer needs some sun.

Tomorrow: continued/accelerated packing. Bicycling. Work, of course. [Just reverse the order of these three, and that will about sum up my day.]