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


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


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


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 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: " 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


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:

(Serves 12)


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


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:


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.