Sunday, August 30, 2009

Escuela!! For real this time.

So tomorrow I once again embark on an official start of grad school, but this time with real, legit classes to attend. I have to figure out how to take the bus, and my stats class syllabus says they expect everyone to have taken introductory stats ( but other than those frightening things I am excited. I got all the classes I wanted, though it took some finagling and some waiting. The best part, really, is that the only class with a start time in the AM realm is one day a week, on Friday. The other days, its either 1 pm or 5:30 pm! I never thought I would be able to replicate the awesomeness that was my first semester at Emory, when I didn't start until after 11 everyday, but I dare say this is better. Now, these late start times are all really an illusion, since I have to put in 10 hours of work every week for ServiceCorps, but I still like it. I think I will especially like it when it is below zero and dark out in the early winter mornings and I can stay tucked in bed instead of trudging through the snow to wait for the bus.

Orientation has been good, I like the people in my program, and while I have some occasional freak-outs about not being ready for this or not knowing what I want to do exactly when I graduate, I think it's going pretty well so far. The only truly bad thing is that my books cost waaaaayy too much.

Last Wednesday was my first night out on the B-town. Went to The Vid, a pool hall type place, and The Bird which is a very awesome live music venue. When we were there they had a cover band that sang Tenacious D among other things and whose lead singer looked like John Krasinski (who is engaged, btw! sad day of mourning for all of us Jim fans). So far, Bloomington's night scene is outperforming Atlanta's, at least in terms of my taste.

What else? Played tennis today. It's a new thing Eric and I are doing because there are parks and rec courts within walking distance of our house and its good free exercise. I lost the first game 4-0 and it made me way more angry than it should have. I am apparently a terrible competitive player. I thought it was just golf that brought out the crazy in me, but tennis too! I threw my racket, you guys. Not mature. Though, I will say that I was much more cordial when I then lost 4-3. At least that score is respectable.

Yesterday was Eric's birthday and so on Friday night I made him dinner. I make dinner a lot but I put in extra effort for this one because it was an occasion, I have to say that it was pretty much delicious. So in lieu of a pie recipe, today I leave you with Turkey Feta Burgers and Spicy Chili Fries:

Turkey Burgers (taken from this recipe at AllRecipes and modified a wee bit)
  • ground turkey
  • half a container of feta cheese
  • a lot of dried oregano
  • one egg
Put everything in a bowl. Use a fork to beat the egg a bit. Mix it all together with your hands. Make into patties, throw on a skillet for about 5-8 minutes a side. Toast wheat buns on the skillet once the burgers are done.

Fries (taken and modified from this recipe)
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick fries
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato-vegetable juice cocktail
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1+ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425. You toss everything together to make the sauce and then you toss the fries in it and put them on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn them, and bake for another 20 minutes, and voila!

Also I made asparagus, but I trust you all can figure that one out for yourselves. Time for Mad Men!!

Au revior, mes amis!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some updating on my blog whilst watching reality shows on CBS

Tomorrow, I embark on the first official day of grad school, but it is just orientation, so I am not so stressed about it. I have a looong week of it, but at the end I will actually know which classes I am taking, so that's good.

I went out for Mexican food tonight with all of my housemates, since all of us have finally moved in. The house still doesn't seem crowded, by some miracle.

Also, I have become really obsessed with FarmVille, this game on Facebook where you build a farm. It's getting a little out of hand, but hey, now I'm at level 10! I have a feeling that my addiction will quickly come to an end as soon as have some actual things to do, instead of just finding ways to kill time like I have been the last week. It's been very relaxing and all, but also...I have been spending a lot of time virtually farming, which I think is a good sign its time to get some activities.

Pre-Graduate School Pie: peaches, candied pecans, Cool Whip, cinnamon, lattice top crust.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barney Frank = Made of Win

This video of Barney Frank responding to a lady at a town hall meeting who was comparing the health care reform plan to Nazism (??) really made my day:

Let us hope that some sensible reform comes out of all this theatricality with the guns and the Nazis and death panel rumors and aren't we just trying to make sure more people can afford decent medical care??

Television Love: Top Chef Masters

Tonight is the season finale of Top Chef Masters. This is a spin-off of Top Chef in which well-established chefs, many of whom have been judges on regular Top Chef, are pitted against each other. There were 6 semifinal episodes where the winner moved on, and then in the finals one person gets booted each week. I absolutely love this show and recommend to all who have not seen it to go turn on Bravo immediately, because they are almost certainly running a marathon of past episodes.

I have been a fan of Bravo's competition reality shows--Project Runway and Top Chef. But Top Chef Masters is heads and shoulders above these two, because even though there is a competition involved, the competitors are such pros that they don't resort to any schemy tactics to win, but mostly they help each other out and just praise each others' work. It's this lovely collegial atmosphere. On a reality show!

One of the main reasons to watch is one Hubert Keller, who runs Fleur de Lys restaurant in San Francisco (where I soooo want to eat now), among other restaurants. He is an awesome old French man with the accent and long grey hair and he is completely charming. Plus he rocks all the challenges, such as creating an 18 dish buffet last week. 18 dishes! Hubert FTW!

Monday, August 17, 2009

"I keep going a lot of places and ending up somewhere I've already been"

The above is a quote from last night's premiere of Mad Men, and it meant something far more profound than the way I am using it in this blog post. Which is, to note the weird congruencies between Bloomington and other places I've lived. Okay, so its not even that profound, its just some road names.

In Bloomington, the cross street (a little too generous of a term, maybe, considering its a residential street intersecting with a tiny cul de sac) that I live on is called Emery. I can also within a short distance drive by a Clifton Ave, and a Woodruff Lane.

Weird, right?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Food, Love, and Julie & Julia

Today I saw Julie and Julia. I loved it, and it has been released at an oddly appropriate time for me.

Food has recently risen in relative importance in my life. I have always loved to go out to eat (who doesn't) and my family makes fun of me for choosing a career where I will most certainly not become wealthy when I have been choosing the most expensive thing on the menu since before I paid any attention to prices.

But this summer, I did a little internship program called SAS. And 16 people lived in a sorority lodge all together and we all loved each other and it actually was the 'intentional community' that the program mission statements proclaim. Anyway, food was very central to the whole thing. Our shared love of feta and 'family dinners' bonded us immensely. You hear a lot about how the ideal nuclear family unit should sit down around the dinner table together every night, and my family did a lot of the time--but we mostly all liked each other anyway and I didn't often attribute it to the dinners we had per se. But this summer, I saw that food could actually, to be cliche, bring people together that wouldn't have been as close otherwise.

And personally, I started to cook a lot more. My mom is a great cook, and she taught me a lot of what she knows constantly gives me good kitchen tools to help me be a successful chef too. But during the school year, when time was scarce, I mostly (sorry mom) ate Lean Cuisine or other frozen foods from Trader Joe's. Cooking just for myself didn't seem all that worthwhile anyway. But when you combine 15 hungry people, a generous food budget that doesn't come out of your own pocket, and a job that only took up 20-30 hours a week, well that is just a good recipe for cooking.

I discovered this summer that cooking for other people can really feel like giving a gift--especially when I make pie (the blog title may have tipped you off to my particular fondness for pie). Because as my mother and grandmother taught me, you must make pie crust from scratch, and cut in all that butter and shortening, and roll out the dough and shape in the pan just so. You put in time, manual labor, and creativity. And when people think that what you make is yummy, well, that's just the best.

I also discovered that cooking can be a comfort just for me, and me alone. The day my dog died, I came home from work, and I just shredded cabbage, made sauce, chopped nuts, made dough, and stirred and mashed and washed and whisked and whatever I could think to make I made it, for about 5 hours straight. It helped me to do something, and to be around people but to be focused so I didn't have to talk too much, to be sad but keep my mind occupied. I wasn't sure how to grieve, really, so I cooked. And that was when the mechanics of cooking started to seem sort of wonderful.

I heard about this book, where they interview a lot of people about their jobs (it isn't Gig- a very similar book which I love, but it isn't this one) and the only one who is really happy with his work is the stone mason, because he creates something tangible with his own hands, every day. Cooking is starting to feel like that to me. And Julie Powell and Julia Child--even thought I didn't know that much about either one before I started to read all the on them before the movie was released--both cook food as a labor of love, and as an ambition and serious project. Food that is difficult, and kind of gross to make, what with all the innards and aspics and killing lobsters, but that you can dig into, work at, and turn into something scrumptious.

I want to jump straight to the end of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to deboning a duck to wrap in that delicious-looking pastry thing that Julie makes at the end of the movie...but maybe I should learn to poach an egg first.

Julie/a Pie: rhubarb, cornstarch, sugar and an extra buttery crust.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Mantra

Somewhere (I think it might have been on this blog) I read that one of the ways to get past writer's block is to think:

"I have something to say."

I am not a writer, per se, so the writer's block issue is not so pertinent to me, but I have found this mantra incredibly useful anyway. I have some trouble with public speaking. I do better if I have a prepared statement--make me speak extemporaneously and good luck to the audience, it's usually an unmitigated disaster. This is why I am great on paper but tend to fail at interviews--come up with answers on the spot and express them coherently? That's asking a lot.

But it helps me a lot to think to myself, hey, you have something to say. This person needs to hear why you would be good for this job, or this group needs to hear your opinion or position on this issue. Somehow, thinking that I have something to say turns the idea of speaking from something to dread into something that is simply necessary. The disaster won't be speaking, it will be failing to speak. My focus shifts to the idea, not the expression of that idea.

So that's a little mantra for you. Maybe it will help you too.

Random product desire: Vintage Stove

Every so often, I have an intense want for something that makes no sense whatsoever to purchase. Like baby shoes. Or, for example, I want a dog, and I look at those “Free Dog!” postings on the Free section of Craigslist, even though I have no place for a dog right now. That dastardly yet wonderful Free section of Craigslist also made me briefly consider picking up a free sailboat and taking up sailing, though luckily I came to my senses about my total lack of nautical knowledge before I went and towed it away or anything.

My most recent nonsensical product desire was brought about by this Slate article about the wonders of vintage stoves. Before I knew it, I was browsing Antique Stove Heaven, and had picked out the stove for me (if you’re curious, it’s the O'Keefe and Merritt Town & Country stove pictured above--six burners, two ovens, three broilers, one warmer, a removable griddle and a utility shelf!!!). Obviously, this is all quite fruitless, since I probably won’t be in a position to redo my kitchen and make it retro for at least a decade.

But besides my occasional yearnings for things that I cannot reasonably purchase, my desire for a vintage stove also stems from my fondness for old, utilitarian things. I think that in modernization we have lost a lot of the functionality that old stuff used to have, or discarded useful things entirely in favor of something newer. Those in-house intercoms from 1980s houses, for example—um, awesome! And totally useful. I know we have cell phones now and everything, but somehow it doesn’t seem as lazy to use an intercom to call your mom from the opposite side of the house to say, hey come to the computer room, I need your help with something, since the house comes equipped with it and everything. My friend Julianne had one in her house, and I completely loved it. I asked my mom once why we didn’t have one, and she said something like “Oh, those are dated.” Which was probably true, but why did such an innovation ever fall out of style? I don’t get it.

A few years ago, we got a new dishwasher because our trusty old one broke down. This new one is fancy-looking—stainless steel and all that—but it consistently leaves the dishes dirty and takes way longer to wash things. I constantly miss that old, ugly one. Same thing with our new coffeemaker. I guess its better quality, but there are about 13 steps to go through for a simple cup of coffee.

So I want a vintage stove. One made right after World War II, cause dammit, that’s when Americans knew how to make things right.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Retail Love: Madewell and Martin & Osa

While in LA to visit Alycia, we went shopping at Century City. It created two retail loves.

Madewell: I believe this store is some kind of J Crew off-shoot, but it fits my style much better than J Crew. It might be a little hipster-y, but its mostly just comfy basics that look cute without trying. At full price, it is outside the realm of my shopping budget, but I have now been there twice, and both times all their sale merchandise was an additional 40% off. And it wasn't one of those sale racks where you look and think there is a good reason it is all on sale. This time, I got a great navy sweater and a cute T with drawings of garden pots all for less than $20. The sad news about Madewell is there are very few of them, and definitely none in the state of Indiana. But scarcity is part of the appeal, isn't it?

Martin & Osa jeans: For far too long, I was in a jeans slump. I had a fancy pair (blackish skinny ones from Anthropologie) and two crappy pairs (wide leg ones from Target with a paint stain, and ancient old jeans that used to be nice but were now incredibly frayed, and didn't ever quite fit right). I had nothing in the middle. No jeans to just wear with some flip-flops and a shirt and go to class looking like you put some thought into yourself that morning. So I had long since started wearing my fancy ones way too much, and they had begun to fray and it was a bad situation.

In the summer I had been able to get away with it a little more, but fall was imminent. I found some jeans to hold me over at an American Eagle sale, but they weren't juuuust right. And then--Martin and Osa. These jeans are perfect, they feel like they were actually made to fit my body, not too long, not too short, not too fancy, not too casual, and in a nifty teal-ish color to boot. I love them. I love them so much I haven't worn them yet. I am saving them for the first day of school, because I am still 13.

(I have Osa Slim jeans, but I'm not sure if the exact type is available online now, because they were on sale in the store.)

August in Tucson

Today, at long last, I smelled creosote. For those of you not raised in the desert, you should really try to come to Tucson during monsoon season, just for the smell. I don't know the science of it, but when creosote (a desert bush) gets rained on, it smells a certain way, and the gusty wind blows it through the air and that's how you know that rain is coming your way. It's an especially wonderful omen, because summer in Tucson is incredibly hot. Everyone knows this. But seriously, it's like living in an oven, so when you smell creosote, it is such a relief.

There is something really unique and wonderful about being home these days. Extended periods of time where I really have very few obligations, because what kind of obligation can you incur when you are only living somewhere for 3 weeks? So I see my friends, I catch up on projects I've put off, and I get to eat out of my parents' refrigerator and sleep in my comfy old bed. And it's great. None of the stress of traveling, and all of the free time. It really works for me too because I am such a lazy person at heart. I know a lot of people who get really antsy and bored if they don't accomplish things during a day, and while its true that I might get that way if I failed to accomplish anything for weeks on end, for the most part it doesn't bother me, in the same way that I look at my room and can think its clean when other people could shriek at the horror of the clutter. I really just don't see the mess, and my lack of productivity also usually has to be pointed out to me by other people.

So that's been my last week or so: relaxation in this hot hot desert. And now it is raining. I like to think it is a little karmic reward for me since today I went to boot camp exercise class with my mom, which is OUTDOORS, and at 5:30 pm. At 4:30 the car's thermostat read 107, just to give you an idea.

Hmmm...what else do I have to say, blogosphere? I think I'll just make a list of some other activities completed since I've been in Tucson.

- golf with my dad
- saw Up for the 3rd time
- yoga
- pilates
- swimming
- finished Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
- began High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
- bought a netbook
- salsa dancing
- ate dinner at Feast (my absolute favorite Tucson restaurant), Zona78, Blanco
- wine tasting
- had a strange reaction to chigger bites, which is now nearly cured
- learned how to cook Indian food
- enrolled in health insurance (YAY!)
- started a blog

Man, in two months, grad school-me is gonna be quite envious of summer-me.

Tucson Summer Pie: chopped pork tenderloin, prickly pear sauce, peaches, and traditional crust.

Writer Love: Tim Kreider

I have recently discovered a little something on the New York Times website called Happy Days, a blog about happiness. It is an excellent procrastination read, especially good for when you need a break at work, because what boss can fault you for reading about happiness? By far my favorite posts have been by political cartoonist Tim Kreider, who I think may have missed his calling.

I discovered his writing with this post: Reprieve, about his year of happiness following a near death experience.
Here's my favorite little passage:
"It’s like the revelation I had when I was a kid the first time I ever flew in an airplane: when you break through the cloud cover you realize that above the passing squalls and doldrums there is a realm of eternal sunlight, so keen and brilliant you have to squint against it, a vision to hold onto and take back with you when you descend once more beneath the clouds, under the oppressive, petty jurisdiction of the local weather."

He wrote just the other day about whether we are able to experience happiness, or only remember it: Averted Vision.

And for any David Foster Wallace fans out there, here is a tribute to the writer by Kreider.

Welcome, Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Since I have once again moved, I thought it would be a wise idea to start a blog, much like I did went I went away to college. Except this time I have gone away to graduate school, so I have to be fancier than livejournal and more creative than ranting about whatever crosses my mind at a given time.

I anticipate that this blog will be about 3 parts personal journal, 1 part a modified version of Mindy Kaling's Things I Bought That I Love, 1 part Huffington Post (I'll link you to interesting stuff), and 0.5 parts Waitress-style pie recipes.