Thursday, December 13, 2012

327. Tanking Like a Champion

The End.
Semester finished.

I'm left feeling really crunchy about it, too. I let myself down.
Yoga II - A. Obviously.
Macroeconomics - A.
College Algebra - B.

A freaking B.
My 4.0 is no more. Streak over.
I made it through the entire semester clinging to my A with a 91.9%, and right at the very end, in plain view of the finish line, I crumbled.

I studied for the final the entire week before. I studied until my head hurt, but by the weekend, I knew I was doomed. I couldn't remember anything anymore. Not as in, my brain is full, I can't learn anything else. I mean, everything that I had studied for the past four months suddenly stopped making sense. When the final exam landed on the table in front of me, the problems looked strangely familiar, yet I had no idea what to do with them.
My lowest score on anything up until that point had been an 86%.
My final exam score? 66%.

I don't think I have ever felt so mentally exhausted. No amount of sleep or yoga or walks in the park seemed to help. I'm just relieved that I still managed a B for the semester, and that I never have to take a math class again unless I choose to do so. And I'm still an honor student, and I'm still on the Dean's List, so I guess I'll survive. I'm just terribly disappointed in my brain this week.

Fortunately, I have a yoga class to look forward to tonight.
Tomorrow is payday.
Christmas is nearly here, and we're hosting a party next Friday.
I have to purchase a punchbowl this weekend.
Somewhere in all of that, I'm going to start feeling better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

326. December?

This has been the sort of Sunday that deserves a little blog nod. I scored 100% on my last math test, meaning all I have to do now is kick some serious final. The weather is stunningly beautiful, and we have all the windows open. Frank and I went for a really long run in the park (which by really long, I mean probably close to three miles). It's dark now, and I've got a pan of Nigella Lawson's Lebanese Moussaka simmering on the stove.

I dragged our Christmas tree out of the basement earlier, thinking we'd decorate it tonight, but this weather is throwing me. I know it's December 2nd and all, but I'm having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit when it's a balmy 70 degrees outside. But it's there in the living room, and can wait a few days until the weather breaks. In the meantime, there's moussaka, and a lot more Battlestar Galactica waiting for me on Netflix.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

325. The Old Woman

The floors of this house are cold.
Wrapped in brick walls,
the air, too, is cold
and it fills me with a sense of loneliness
as if a glimpse into my future;
an old woman buried in layers of sweaters
because the meat on her bones has all but worn away.

Perhaps my house feels the same.
The weight of the years bearing down,
making it ever more difficult to resist her own decay.
Each season, not really so different from the last.

Yet her mood seems to brighten
as you step across the threshold,
carrying with you the warmth of your smile
and the easiness of your laugh.
She sighs with the contentment
of one who knows that this is more than just a house.
This is home.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

324. Sundae Nite Jamzzz

Updates/Catch-all post stuff.
Thanksgiving as I laid it out previously, did not happen. The Wizard's mum became upset that we weren't into the idea of going to feast at a stranger's house, so she cancelled that plan entirely and decided to host Thanksgiving as usual at the estate.

I was especially disappointed, but later realized that's silly. I mean, yeah. I wanted to roast a turkey and make all my own holiday happenings, but so what. The truth is, it would've just been the Wizard and I, and while I love and adore cheffing it up, no one would've been around to eat my creations. I just imagined friends without other plans dropping in and hanging out, which wasn't realistic. So instead, the man and I made a cute little veggie gratin to take to his parents', and had a love-uh-ly time with his family. We even played horseshoes in the yard after dinner.
On Friday we made a pecan and a pumpkin pie, and went and had a love-uh-ly time at my family's house, and I can't regret any of it. The food was delightful, and the company pleasant.

We still hope to host a Christmas party, and possibly to roast a something for ourselves. Because we make damn fine food, we two.

I finished registering for classes this week, and next semester is shaping up to be Fiction Writing, Figure Drawing I, and Intro to Cultural Anthropology. I'm the most nervous about fiction. I've written forever, but I've never actually written a story.
I'm embarrassed to admit that. 

I'm most excited about figure drawing. I live with my very own muse, and I cannot wait to sketch him in a million poses because I know he'll happily oblige me. Nevermind that he's startlingly photogenic, or that I adore every aspect of his form...

So yeah. Sorry about, y'know. Not being around much. Go follow me on Instagram too, if you miss me. @BadPonee. I'm always kicking around over there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

323. T-Minus 1 Week to Turkey!

By some strange twist of events, the Wizard and I do not have a place to go on Thanksgiving Day. We would be going to his parents' house, but his parents have plans to spend the day at a friend's, and my family's Thanksgiving is not until Friday. This never happens, and I have decided to seize the opportunity.

I am going to cook a turkey for the first time in my life.

I'm a little nervous about it, but I think I can do it. I've helped people cook turkeys plenty of times, I've just never actually made one on my own. I do make a rather decent roast chicken though, and turkey is really just the same concept, only bigger. 

There are a million different ways you can prepare a turkey, and I'm having a little trouble deciding on my approach. I think I'm leaning toward stuffing it full of herbs and then massaging it over and under the skin with butter. Supposedly, the butter makes for a moist and tasty turkey, which is the most important thing. Further research is required, however. My mom slow cooks hers. The Wizard's mom has this crazy plug-in turkey roaster contraption. Someone at work told me I should roast it in a bag to keep it moist. Roasting it upside down supposedly keeps the breast meat tender.
I have some more reading to do before I can make an informed decision.

The bird aside, I think I might be more excited about side-dishes. I love tradition, and I don't mind having the same things every single year, because it's the only time I get to eat those things. But this year I have the luxury of getting the traditional dishes on Friday, so I think I'm going to get experimental with my feast. I think I will make cranberry sauce from scratch, and I might try some sort of potato/turnip gratin. I haven't decided if there will be dessert because there will most definitely be pie on Friday. I wish there would be some guests who might drop in and help us eat whatever it is we make, but I really don't expect anyone.

All I know for certain is that I am very, very excited. My favorite holiday is almost here!

Friday, November 2, 2012

322. Never Enough [Time]

I want to be running. Instead, I am sitting in a cubicle. I ran this morning, but I guess it wasn't enough because I already want to go again. It was cold and dark, and it took me nearly an hour to drag myself out of bed. Now, it's sunny and 55 degrees. By the time I get home it will already be dark, and I will settle into my chair for the night with a pile of homework.

Yesterday I managed to get through the day's assignments at work, which allowed for another evening curled up on the couch with the Wizard watching various films while eating pasta and drinking wine.

For some reason, most of my neighborhood was without power when I got home, and I'm still in the dark as to why (ha). Fortunately for us, we were on the border of the outage. Our street had power, the next street over didn't. I decided to go on a wine run to the corner market, and found that every block between my house and the store was dark. People were wandering the streets with flashlights, and I had to wonder what New York and New Jersey must feel like this week. I've mostly been tracking the developments through Instagram and NPR, which makes for an interesting combination of journalism and first-hand account. My friend Tim lives in Hoboken, and has been uploading some particularly fascinating images of school buses wading down the street, and a woman and her two dogs being rescued via bulldozer.

Anyway, my corner store was open, and I spent a few minutes taking in the little bit of information Michael the clerk had gleaned from other customers stopping in. The cause of the outage remained a mystery, but I headed home with a fantastic red from Argentina. There are lots of reasons I love my neighborhood more than any other neighborhood I have ever lived in, but that store is probably in my top 5.

The Wizard was in the mood for more silent movies, but apparently there is no "silent film" genre on Netflix. After some discussion, we realized that he had never seen the Salvador Dali film Un Chien Andalou, which you might recognize from the lyrics of The Pixies' song Debaser. It's only 16 minutes long, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it for your viewing pleasure.

Dali hit the spot, and it was onto another guilty pleasure, samurai flicks. I caught sight of an Akira Kurosawa movie we had never heard of before, Ran (1985), and upon reading the description, we had to watch it. It's Kurosawa's take on Shakespeare's King Lear.

I'm guessing the version on Netflix has to have been remastered, because the film quality looks outstanding. The Wizard commented repeatedly that he thought it was pre-80's due to the foley work, but he might be more aurally perceptive than me. I thought it sounded on par with any other epic from the time, like Conan the Barbarian, or Red Sonia (which came out the same year).

The cast is full of entertaining characters, but Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede makes it. She's violent, calculating, revenge-hungry...I loved her. If you like samurai movies or just enjoy Shakespeare, it's worth a watch.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

321. November the First

Present fourth-dimensional coordinates:
364 days until the next Halloween
5 days until the election
3 weeks until Thanksgiving
6 weeks left in the semester
7 1/2 weeks until Christmas
8 1/2 weeks until New Years Eve adventures in Chicago

I didn't dress up for Halloween again this year.
I hope to put forth more of a costume effort next year, but we'll see. Before then, I need to learn how to stop over-thinking them so much. I have a habit of going all out or not going at all. Then again, I really didn't have anywhere to go this year either.

I bought all the necessary parts with the intention of going as a picnic, but I had so much math homework that I didn't have the time or energy left to put the costume together. Instead we stayed in, lit our pumpkins, and watched Nosferatu (1922) and Dracula (1931) over mandarin vodka-sodas, fun size candy bars, and toasted curry pumpkin seeds. It was very low-key, very 30-something, and just what I needed.

Lately I watch a lot of Battlestar Galactica, listen to a lot of surf rock, and cook a lot of food, but not as much as I would like. I run sometimes, but again, not even close to as much as I would like. Most of the time, I tear my hair out over math homework that I am just barely making sense of, but would probably understand fully and deeply if I had more time to devote to studying. I study a LOT. I spend so much time studying that I find myself mentally exhausted more often than not, which I think is part of why I am not absorbing information as easily as usual. Even Macroeconomics is straining my brain, and it's an easy class.

That being said, I cannot wait for this semester to be over so I can get back to studying subjects I actually want to pursue. I had been going through a flip-floppy indecisive phase forever, in which I felt incapable of choosing a major for fear that I was making the wrong decision. Mostly, I think I was afraid that if I made a decision, I would somehow pigeon-hole myself into one possible outcome for the rest of my life. Deep down, I knew that wasn't true, but I couldn't even start to address the issue without inducing a small panic attack. For a while I was starting to think something was wrong with my heart, because it would begin racing out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. Usually, it would happen when I was lying in bed at night trying to sleep.

At some point last week, I was bored at work, and MyMathLab wouldn't load so I could do my homework on the clock. I started downloading college lectures on various topics through iTunes U, and settled into the first 2 hours of an intro to computer programming course from Stanford. 2 hours later, I came away fully understanding the material I had been lectured on, but with the realization that I just wasn't that interested in pursuing it. The professor was hysterical, and his lectures were interesting. It just isn't what I want to devote my time and energy to. Paired with the fact that I cannot wait for this math class to be over, I think I've finally come to terms with what I want.

Choosing to major in art is terrifying. Everyone shakes their head and tells you you're making a mistake, and that you'll never make any money, or the field is flooded with a million other talented people who'll constantly be competing with you. That you'll struggle to pay back your student loans, and that you're condemning yourself to a life of stress and misery and ramen noodles.

It's entirely possible that all of those things are true. It's also possible that the people who tell you those things don't have any faith in your abilities, or they're bitter about their own decisions and failures. In either case, those aren't the people you should be taking advice from.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

320. Oh, Oh, And You're Mary Tyler Moore

Early last week, I helped my temporary roommate move her mattress out of her old house and into her new one, and with that, the Wizard and I had our apartment to ourselves again. We've had one guest or another staying with us for the better part of three weeks, and without them, the place feels humongous. It's also very quiet, decently clean, and completely relaxing.  

Things have been so non-stop, I haven't had a chance to post much, but I feel I need to backtrack and tell you about a conversation I had with a crazy person in the park last Saturday.

It was a lovely day, perfect for a game of fetch in the park with Franklin Doglano Woofsevelt. We wandered down to the open field where we usually play, and managed to enjoy perhaps 10 minutes of fun before I noticed a man set his gaze on us and make a beeline across the field to where we were.

I don't mind talking to strangers...briefly. But I'm fairly certain there is an unspoken rule about impromptu conversations with strangers not to exceeding a certain time limit. The time limit is flexible, depending on how the conversation is going...but both parties should be perceptive of the other person's body language and responses, and sense when to wrap things up and be on their way.

I never bothered to ask his name, so I will just call him Man Gogh. Man Gogh was oblivious to the unspoken rules of polite society. Furthermore, he guilted me into listening to him for far longer than I ever wanted by beginning the conversation with a story about being racially profiled by a couple on the other side of the park, and how upset that made him feel. Sadly, his guilt routine worked like a charm, and I was trapped. From there, the conversation spiraled so deeply into the realm of the surreal, I later had to wonder if there had ever been a racial profiling incident at all.

Man Gogh started off innocently enough, regaling me with tales of his artwork. "Reclamations", he insisted, when I mistakenly referred to them as paintings. He said he goes into old houses in disrepair and collects things like a piece of wood and bits of bricks, and then creates a picture of the house on the wood from the house, using the brick to create the same color of the house. This sounds pretty cool in writing, to be honest, but the way he described them...let's just say I have a pretty good feeling they are not good. He claims he does commission pieces, but I still felt skeptical. If they are good, then he is perhaps a savant of some kind and I have no appreciation for brilliance, even when it's standing right in front of me and telling me it wants to marry me.

So the conversation turned from art to the fact that I appear to be 12 years old, to finding out that I am in fact, not 12 years old, and therefore the ideal woman. In a single breath, Man Gogh told me he wanted to marry me, told me that he wanted to have a wife who did nothing but housework and spent all his money, and told me that he would need to have a couple of mistresses on the side. He waffled for several minutes over whether I should be the mistress or the wife, but eventually concluded that I was a queen, and would have to be the wife. When I explained how assanine all of this was, he couldn't seem to comprehend my reasoning. Why in the world would a woman want to have a job or be self-sufficient in any way, as long as she had an overly willing puppy-dog of a man to tend to her every need and desire? He did at least finally concede not to cheat on me in our imaginary marriage.

Just then, Man Gogh realized what it was he found so appealing about me. First, he told me I reminded him of Mary Tyler Moore, and serenaded me with the theme song to her show. Second, I reminded him of his ex-girlfriend who moved to France to become a runway model. He spent at least 20 minutes giving me a detailed account of their entire relationship, beginning with the day they met and had sex, after which she cried a lot, and he told her to get out of his face because he didn't want to hear any of that. The next day he says she showed up at his house and they had sex again, after which she handed over the keys to her apartment and car, with the one and only stipulation that he give her a ride to and from work that day.

Man Gogh explained that after dropping her off at work, he took the opportunity to go joyriding about town in her automobile with his friends, drinking beer and smoking marijuana until approximately an hour before he was supposed to pick her up. Upon realizing the time, he ditched his friends and then stopped to give the car a thorough cleaning before she could find out what a mess he had made of it. By day three the two were so madly in love, they went straight out and rented a condo together downtown. There were a lot of strange holes in his story, but it was detailed enough that either Man Gogh has a wildly vivid imagination, or some of these things really did happen.

Man Gogh and the girl were happy and life was perfect, until she suddenly decided to pursue her lifelong dream to become a French model. As quickly as she had appeared, she packed up and left the country, and Man Gogh has wandered the earth, lonely and heartbroken, ever since. Now he just dreams of finding a nice wife who doesn't care much about anything beyond being a gold-digger and nagging him to take the garbage out. Somehow, I suspect it unlikely that his unambitious goal will ever come true considering he lacks the monetary value necessary to sustain a gold-digging wife. Worse, he smells a lot like a bag of McDonald's left to rot inside a hot dumpster.

The moment I sensed a slight lull in his rambling tale, and jumped at the opportunity to make my escape. I had been listening to him for a full 45 minutes, and I was starting to think I might gnaw off my own arm to get away. I wished Man Gogh the best in his quest for love, noted the direction he seemed to be heading, and set off at a brisk pace in the exact opposite. By then, I was too exhausted to enjoy the park and far more concerned with not running into him a second time, so we just went home. The end.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

319. The Lucky Divorcees

A very good friend has been living with me for the past week. She's filed for divorce, and we've been having a fantastic time staying up late going to rock shows, getting drunk and baking hysterical cupcakes, jamming out badly on every instrument in the house, and running amok all over town. I feel like I'm 19 and living illegally in a boys' dormitory again. All these late nights have made it really difficult to make it to work on time and keep up with my homework, so I'm [regretfully] glad it's only a temporary living arrangement. Even so, I'm managing to keep pace, burning the candle as far as I can stand to burn it from both ends. I should only have to keep this up for another week or so, and then I will probably crash like a spent punk for an entire weekend. If we ever decide to form a band, I think we'll call ourselves The Lucky Divorcees. Maybe just The Divorcees. Lucky seems potentially redundant.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

318. Arsenal in the Dark

 Film by me. Music by Gossip, "Lily White Hands".

Friday, August 31, 2012

317. Stress.

Things are difficult. I don't want to complain at all, because I LOVE school.
It's just the thing is,

     mentally taxing full time job
+  8 college credit hours
+  test monday
+  unexpected house guest 
+  being on call for the demanding job
+  algebra is fucking hard

I spent approximately 4 1/2 hours on math homework tonight. My guest is wonderful and lovely and I want to hang out with her, but she is inviting me to things like weddings and rehearsal dinners for some person I have never met in my life. I told my parents I would visit on Sunday. I have to take a test on Monday and I am not prepared because College Algebra is much more advanced and time consuming than I would have guessed having prepared myself extensively over the past two semesters for it. You cannot cram when trying to learn a language, and math is definitely a language. I am seriously panicking, and at the center of it all, I miss my boyfriend more than I can possibly describe because even though we sleep in the same bed, that is literally all we see of each other lately.

Tonight I finished my homework and went to meet him and his parents at the haunted mansion where he performs dinner theater, because he asked me to come. I thought we would get drinks after the show, but instead, his parents were ready to leave. I left and went to the grocery store, where I purchased a 6 piece fried chicken and a bottle of chardonnay. I'm not sure what is wrong with me, but apparently I have developed a very specific association between math-related stress and Schnucks' fried chicken. Upon my return home, I devoured three pieces of the chicken like a Tyrannosaurus Rex who has been handed three free goats, proceeded to pace like a mental patient, and broke down sobbing as soon as the Wizard got home.

I'm so embarrassed.
You should see all the made-from-scratch America's Test Kitchen brownies I just devoured.
Tomorrow morning I run.
I will run until everything is sane again.

Also, this's been stuck in my head all day. And without ever saying anything, the Wizard just started singing it to me. Sometimes I think he knows more than he lets on.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

316. To Whom It May Concern

The following is the transcript of an email I just sent to the dean of the business department at my college, who I believe oversees subjects such as Principles of Macroeconomics. I don't mean to imply in this email that I am somehow aggressively out to attack Christianity, because I'm not. Though I don't fall in perfect alignment with Christian beliefs, I do have a lot of overlap in how I feel about God and the universe as a whole. What I am adverse to is people who attempt to impress their beliefs and opinions upon everyone around them, particularly in situations that should be neutral to any and all indoctrination (such as state-run community college).

I'm not certain that you are the correct person to address this question, but I would like to make a comment about the required textbook used for Principles of Macroeconomics with Bernard Weinrich. The book is Principles of Macroeconomics, by Fred Gottheil.

The issue I have with the text is that this is supposed to be a social science course, yet chapter one makes extensive reference to the Bible and the creation story from Genesis. I sincerely understand the use of metaphor to prove a point, but this particular book crosses a very solid line between using religion as a metaphor and stating a religious belief as fact. The section I take particular issue with is page 5, in which the text is using Adam and Eve as an example for the human condition of insatiable want, and states, "We inherited their genes." I don't believe that there is any specific evidence that I inherited Adam and Eve's genes, or that Adam and Eve themselves were real people rather than parable.

Up until I read that sentence, I found the reference unnecessary, but accepted it as being this author's frame of mind or reference. That sentence, however, takes the text to a place of alienation for any student who is not a Christian. I don't want to deny anyone their right to believe what they believe, but I do have a problem with a college textbook at a state school which attempts to tell me that the book of Genesis is fact. There is little scientific evidence to support the idea that The Bible should be interpreted as any more factual or historically accurate than Homer's Odyssey or Jim Davis' Garfield At Large.

Please let me know if you are not the correct party to address this concern, as I would like to hear STLCC's official opinion on the matter.

E____ G_____

315. Saturday: A Recap

Woke up early for my first 8am Yoga II class.
Listened to my teacher go over the syllabus for 20 minutes before sending us home. The drive round-trip was 40 minutes.
Went grocery shopping dressed exactly like a college student; unshowered, no makeup, in yoga garb.
Returned home to find the cat had attempted to destroy my two best okra plants by using their container as a dirt toilet. He managed to dig a surprisingly deep hole in the center of the pot, nearly snapped one stalk in half, and succeeded in turning his white coat a mottled shade of Miracle-Gro Brown.
Salvaged the plants to the best of my ability.
Stuffed the perpetrator into the bathtub and scrubbed him white again.
Bathed the dog too, just for good measure.
Spent another half hour mopping up the puddles and laundering the creature towels.
Chopped up a pineapple with the intention of making Hawaiian waffles.
Received phone call from the Wizard that he would not be finished at the car shop anytime soon, and that I should just come meet him for lunch.
Showered, finally.
Split a Margharita pizza and spinach salad with the Wizard at a really strange place called Manhattan Cafe. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Manhattan. Mostly it resembled a knock-off Steak n Shake, with a million different Elvis albums littering the walls. Our server was a girl named Pickles. The food was surprisingly decent.
Returned home and spent the next 7 hours doing homework. I am still not finished, and anticipate tomorrow will be about the same.
Dashed to the corner store for wine just before they closed, and nerded out with the store owner.
Returned home to find that the dog had been on the prowl again, this time destroying my box of Cheez-Its. Destroy might be misleading...exploded might be more appropriate. It was as if he ran from one end of the house shaking the bag and spraying orange crumbs in every direction.
Stuffed the dog in the bathroom where he could do no further harm, and went jogging during a lucky window between the rains. I ran almost 2 miles without stopping or having to struggle. This seems pathetic considering how long I've been running, but it's probably the farthest I've gone without a walk break since I changed the way I run a few months ago. Maybe only two months ago, I'm not sure anymore. Days sort of run together when you're clipping along being busy and productive. I'm up to running 3-4 times a week again, which I haven't done in probably two years, and even if I'm not running as far as I'd like yet, I see that as significant progress.
Returned home feeling much less agitated. Showered and then swept the entire house.
And now, FINALLY, it is time for some wine.

Monday, August 20, 2012

314. Fall Semester, Day 1.

Ask me what song I have stuck in my head all day on the first day of any semester, and I will sing to you in my best Adam Sandler voice, "Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool". The man is a master of modern prose. Truly.

And I am GIDDY with excitement and nervousness and terror for the four months that lay before me.

There was a brief last minute debacle when two of my three classes were cancelled one week before the start of the semester, but somehow I came out of the affair better off than I was before. My online math class with a very poorly rated professor has been replaced by an online math class with a professor who receives glowing reviews, while my 8am World Religions (speaking intensive/sociology requirement) was replaced by a 7pm Principles of Macroeconomics (speaking intensive/sociology requirement). And Yoga remains on Saturdays, at 8am.

One would think this course load is everyone's worst nightmare, but I can barely contain myself. I've just spent the evening going through the online math orientation, and I have a really good feeling about it. I'm also a giant fan-girl of NPR's Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal. My only worry is that my Macroec professor might not be as engaging and charismatic, considering the class is nearly 3 hours long.

In the past year, I have become such a gigantic nerd that I think you could put me in almost any class at all, dangle the possibility of an A in front of me, and I would hurl myself full force into the subject as though nothing else on Earth mattered. I am completely driven by the promise of a gold star and an ego-maniacal desire to know EV-ER-Y-THING. (Purely for science, of course.)

And now, let's do the numbers...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

313. Bad Dog.

This evening we returned home from dinner with friends' to find the dog had peed all over our two month old mattress. The nicest mattress that the Wizard and I have ever owned. The largest purchase we have ever made together excluding apartment rent is now soaked in the urine of a vindictive canine. The mattress was a measly $400. We're poor, and we got a very good deal.
It's lovely and firm, and we sleep like rocks on it.

I took him running with me before work this morning. He was let out prior to our leaving the house. He had little reason to be displeased, beyond the fact that he was left behind with the cat.

There's not a lot you can do to save a mattress once it's been defiled as ours has. Supposedly, you can try steam cleaning it, but I don't own a steam cleaner. Instead, I tried to salvage it by hand. I dumped hot water on it repeatedly and drew the liquid out with dry towels. Then I saturated it in Shout, scrubbed it, dumped more hot water on it, and drew that out. It's currently drying face down with a fan blowing across the damp patch. It smells exactly like Shout, which is quite pleasant, and all signs of discoloration are gone.

The dog has been banished to the porch of solitude for the time being to think about what he's done. He knew. They say a dog has no concept of what they did when you punish them after the fact. I can assure you, this is not true. He was acting really nervous and sketchy from the moment we came in the door. So suspicious was his behavior, I knew he had done something wrong and went looking for it. He probably has another 10 minutes before he's forgiven, maybe less.
I have trouble staying angry at a face like that.

Well, that, and Manhattans have a strangely calming effect on a person.

Friday, August 10, 2012

312. Splurge

Confession. Last blog post? I was quite drunk.
Necessary sometimes.

The weather is incredible today, and all of our windows are open. There's a woman laughing wildly in the streets and it's echoing off the brick buildings so much that you really can't tell from where exactly it's coming. Not a cackling, choppy laugh, either. This is a howling, out of control sort of laugh. I wish I had a way to record it, intermingled with the steady pulse of cricket sounds and occasional dogs barking.

It's been a very long time since I've been excited about a new album. I do that sometimes, I guess. I get sort of bored with what's coming out, and retreat to my old tried and true selections. I think I've been doing that for about a year now, at least. Over the past few months, I've slowly begun to crawl out of my den and become interested in what's new again. Yeasayer's upcoming Fragrant World is the first album I have pre-ordered for as long as I can remember. I don't know what it is, but I love this band, and have loved them since the beginning. They only seem to be improving as time goes on.

Monday, August 6, 2012

311. You're So Fuckin' Special

It's...Monday. I guess. Hey.

Look, don't come in here looking for insights or sensibilities. I don't have any.

It's Elliott Smith's birthday. That's significant in the sense that he has greatly, immensely, influenced my life. Waltz #2 was stuck in my head all morning, well before I realized it was his birthday. I've been listening to the mix that the Wizard made me 2 1/2 years ago for a week now. Maybe more. Mixes are rare, and really good mixes take talent that only comes from best friends like Janelle, and Wizards like Johnny. They make me ashamed of those I've made in my time. I owe the mix-tape world. I do. My transitions pale in comparison.

Otherwise, though. It was Monday, and there are always Mondays. No one gives a damn about Mondays spent in cubicles. Or wasted days in  cares about days of accomplishment, because those are the days that stick, yeah?

It's transitioned from Elliott to Bjork, to The Decemberists. Who cares.
Radiohead happened momentarily.
I'm still here.

I was on a Paris train
I emerged in London rain
and you were waiting there
swimming through apologies...

I'm glad she's mine, I'm glad she's mine...

You don't often see your neighbors in underpants, do you?
You don't.
It's nice to realize the people you see and love are more like you than you think they might be. That there's a girl in her tank and underpants cooking dinner, while a boy in cargo shorts stumbles out of the bedroom. And they shut the blinds so you mind your own damned business.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

310. Window

A short film of my neighbor's window set to Wax Tailor's "Birth of a Struggle".

Monday, July 23, 2012

309. And, Time.

Summer class is in the bag...I just completed my last two quizzes and have sailed through Oral Comm with a high A. I'm relieved to have that one out of the way, considering how much I'd been dreading it and how easy it turned out to be. That leaves me a full month without any responsibilities other than working. Magnifique!

I've been running more lately, though not as much as I'd like. Dragging yourself out of bed at 6am most days is tough, but it's about the only way I can go during a heat wave that breeches 100 degrees almost daily.

I mentioned before that my form was all wrong, but I didn't really go into it much more than that, and I've been meaning to post links to the articles that helped me so much. As it turns out, I've been doing it wrong for YEARS. Ever since I started, around age 25 or so, I've always run on the balls of my feet. I thought it was bad for your heels to ever touch the ground, so I ran like I was sprinting up a hill all the time. No one ever corrected me, so I trudged miserably on, fighting blisters and shin splints and bruised toes, never breaking my record distance of 3 miles.

I still haven't exceeded 3 miles, but with the heat and having to retrain myself to run correctly, it's been a little like starting over. Yet it's only been a month, and already, I can feel an enormous difference. The biggest accomplishment has been going running twice in one day, or a run in the evening and going again the following morning. Before, I could never run more than every other day, but now I can go as often as I have the energy.

There's still a lot to learn, but these were an excellent place to start, and I hope they'll help someone else as much as they did me. 

Pronation Explained
The Perfect Form

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

308. Clouds


Photographed and filmed with my iPhone. July 15-16, 2012.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

307. Take Five

That's how many times I've restarted this entry. I don't know what I was getting at exactly, but I've stumbled upon something this week and I'm trying to articulate it in a way that doesn't sound deranged.

It may have started with Dada. Actually, if you backtrack a bit, it might have started with Charles and Ray Eames, wandered over to Dada and a lot of reading about conceptual art, and then twirled back to the Eameses in the form of The Films of Charles and Ray Eames Vol. 2. Other contributions include the purchase of my very first glue gun, an epic epiphany regarding proper running form that has changed everything, and a 40% off sale at Dick Blick, which resulted in my carting home a rather impressive set of watercolor paints IN TUBES for a truly delightful price.

The point isn't where it started, but what happened. I suddenly have an intense sense of motivation. No, not even motivation. Motivation would imply intent and desire, but not necessarily motion.
The word I really want is momentum.
Drive, mister.

All of the sparks are sparking again, and there is nothing I love more in the universe than that sensation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

306. I Am Elaine Benes

I stopped to drop off my rent check this morning, which gets deposited in a little metal mailbox at this house on Arsenal, across the street from my favorite park.

As I parked my car and got out, I noticed an older, heavyset woman digging around in the flower bed bordering the sidewalk in front of the house. She glanced up at me briefly, but immediately turned back to digging up plants. Her face was down, body orientated so that she was facing away from me, and appeared to be completely absorbed in what she was doing.

There were a lot of cars driving by, and it was very loud. 

As I walked up the steps to the gate, I kind of heard her muttering about something, but she wasn't looking at me or making any sign that she was speaking to me.

I dropped my check in the mailbox and turned to walk back to my car. As I paused at the top of the stairs to shut the wrought iron gate behind me, she looked straight at me and snarled, “STUCK UP!

Me (flabbergasted): “Excuse me?”
Garden Troll: “ You’re STUCK UP!!! I said hi to you TWICE!”
Me: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you at all. There’s a lot of traffic and it's really loud.”
Garden Troll (in the snottiest voice she had): “O-KAAAAY.”


Monday, July 2, 2012

305. Ees Hot.

It's hit at least 100 degrees every day for the past week, with no end in sight. Everyone is cancelling their Fourth of July fireworks displays, and all of our plants are dropping dead. I've adjusted to living with extreme temperatures really well, I think, but it's still frustrating at times.

Just now the hints of a storm rolled in, but I'm not sure it's really going to rain. There's wind, and thunder, and the sky has gone dark...but not a single drop has fallen. Even if it does, it won't have much effect on the heat.

I'm regretting not taking more summer classes. The workload for my Oral Comm class has turned out to be so light, I could easily have gotten something else out of the way at the same time.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

304. Art is Dead. Long Live Dada.

This week has presented me the opportunity to immerse myself in any topic I chose, in preparation for my next speech assignment. After days of racking my brains, toying with topics that ranged from marathon running to the Eames, I remained indifferent. I was hoping for a topic that was more than a little intriguing. I wanted something fascinating
That's when I remembered Dada.

Dada, the birthplace of conceptual art as it exists today. Equal parts protest and punk rock, the Dadaists strove to challenge the ways we define what constitutes art. Sometimes referred to as anti-art, Dada was conceived in frustration and born to infuriate. Though the movement only lasted about 7 years, beginning shortly before 1916 and finally wearing out its welcome around 1923, the footprints it left behind are pressed firmly into the sidewalk of our collective consciousness.

Exhibit A, Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q.: Quite possibly the first time in which someone drew a mustache on the Mona Lisa:

L.H.O.O.Q. - Marcel Duchamp, 1919

L.H.O.O.Q. is a play on words, an acronym from the French "Elle a chaud au cul", and translates roughly to, "She has a hot ass".

Right now you may be thinking to yourself, "Psh. No big deal, anyone could have done that".
You're right, and that's the point. Dada wasn't about artistic talent, or years spent improving one's technique. Duchamp began as a painter dabbling in Impressionism and Cubism before deciding to stop painting altogether. To paraphrase his reasoning for this, painting was made for the eye, and not the mind. That isn't to say that the Dada artists were poseurs, cobbling together absurd pieces in order to distract the viewer from noticing their lack of talent. On the contrary, all were accomplished artists capable of working with a variety of mediums, as evidenced by one of my favorite Francis Picabia pieces below.

Machine Turn Quickly - Francis Picabia, 1917

While Dadaists sought to express themselves through utter nonsense, they succeeded in making a surprising amount of sense. Take Tristan Tzara's poem, "Vegetable Swallow":

two smiles meet towards
the child-wheel of my zeal
the bloody baggage of creatures
made flesh in physical legends-lives

the nimble stags storms cloud over
rain falls under the scissors of
the dark hairdresser-furiously
swimming under the clashing arpeggios

in the machine's sap grass
grows around with sharp eyes
here the share of our caresses
dead and departed with the waves

gives itself up to the judgment of time
parted by the meridian of hairs
non strikes in our hands
the spices of human pleasures 

The words read like the rantings of a mad man, yet the imagery is so vivid, it flashes through your imagination like the sequences of a dream.

Taking a cue from Sigmund Freud, Dadaists explored human sexuality and gender roles, poked fun at the stuffiness of the art world, and asked society to view the world from a different point of view. One of the most entertaining methods for accomplishing this was through the use of "Readymades", or found object sculptures.

The most literal example of a Readymade may also be the most famous. Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", which is nothing more than a porcelain urinal signed with the fake name R. Mutt. Duchamp entered the piece in an open exhibition held by the American Society of Independent Artists, for which he served as a board member. Not surprisingly, the entry was promptly rejected on the basis of indecency. Though Duchamp mischievously intended to shock his art world peers, the question "what defines art?" is a valid one, and has never found a definitive answer.

“Art has nothing to do with taste. Art is not there to be tasted.” - Max Ernst
When taken out of context, everyday objects can't help but be viewed with a fresh perspective. We see the lines of the object, the texture, and color, often before we can even process what the item actually is. And stripped of its original meaning, an object is now free to mean something else entirely.  

Obstruction - Man Ray, 1920

In 1921, Francis Picabia denounced Dada, saying it was no longer vital, and had lost its ability to shock. Within a few years, most of the artists had moved on to Surrealism. Yet Dada, whether intentionally or not, redefined the very being of art, influencing everything that came after it. From Andy Warhol's pop art paintings of Campbell's soup cans, to Alexander Calder's mobiles, or the experimental compositions of John Cage, the way we create and perceive art has never been the same.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

303. Pride

On the morning of the parade I put my hair up in pins.
It looks amateurish; I lack skill and therefore rarely attempt it.
Today I find I am pleased with the result
and quickly spray it into place before it has time to change its mind.

In two hours, hundreds will culminate
in the streets, riding on floats with fluttering flags,
their makeup and hair, done with such precision, will melt
under the gaze of a late June sun.

We used to only celebrate the homecomings
of soldiers and fallen heroes of foreign wars,
never realizing that each and every one of us
holds the promise of infinite potential.

Now we march in celebration of life, the value of the individual.
For the difference that every person has the opportunity
to make. We have become self-aware, and
there is no turning back.

And so, I dress with pride, and take my place on the sidewalk.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

302. A Mouse and a Mattress

The brand new bed has arrived, and it's every bit as comfy as we'd imagined. It's also substantially smaller than I pictured. We had a queen, which is too large for the Wizard's bed frame, so we decided to get a smaller nicer mattress for it, rather than buy a new frame and keep the same worn out mattress. The reduction in width was fully expected, but what I didn't realize is that queens are also longer than fulls. It'll be fine, but we were both taken a bit by surprise. Luckily, neither of us exceeds 6 feet in height, or we'd have a real problem.

The day's second arrival came an hour later, and is much smaller. His name is Fat Albert, and he's from Texas. Al was the classroom pet for my pal Josh's fourth graders. When the year came to a close, Al found himself out of a job and without a retirement plan.
 I've had mice before, but they were lady-mice. They loved spending time curled up together, or running together on their wheel. Al is a dude, and apparently he's not fond of other dudes. His last roommate wound up dead under a mysterious set of circumstances, and foul play was suspected.

I had a ridiculously over-sized cage just sitting in the basement, leftover from my pair of rats, both of whom passed away over a year ago. It's a mouse mansion, and with so much space, it seemed silly to leave all of that room to one mouse. He's like Howard Hughes in there. I knew there was a chance that he really was a loner, but I decided to try and get him some company anyway.

Meet Bruce Willis, the mouse.

Bruce is apparently a bit younger than Al, and the moment we put them together, Al was on Bruce's tail like a school bully after milk money. The Wizard did a quick Google search and discovered that Al is not an exception to his species. Male mice, upon reaching sexual maturity, become highly territorial, and will fight other males for turf, often to the death.

I was crushed. Bruce is a lovely mouse with the casual sort of personality that makes him great company. As I type this, he's perched on my shoulder, curled up under my hair. Happily, the Wizard had a solution. The rat cage is massive, with four levels of indoor climbing space. It can easily be divided into an upper and lower penthouse, each of which will remain substantial in size, and still contain 2 levels for climbing. The boys can rest easy knowing their kingdoms are safe from invasion, while offering a neighbor who lives close enough for over the fence pissing contests and shouting matches. Al has claimed the upper penthouse, and Bruce the lower.

The only issue left to address is the fact that Bruce doesn't have the sense to stay on his side of the fence. He's so small he fits right through the bars into Al's living room, and Al doesn't take kindly to uninvited guests. Once we get all the little cracks sealed, I'm confident the members of the neighborhood association with settle into a more congenial disposition.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

301. The Speech Project

Oral Communications. The assignment: Record a 3-5 minute autobiography themed...thing.
The problem? Filming yourself making any sort of loosely planned speech and not critiquing every mistake you make as you're making them, to the extreme of fifty-something attempts before you finally, finally, get one full video out of the ordeal. It certainly didn't help that I have very little experience in front of the lens...I'm usually behind any cameras I come in contact with.

I spent nearly two hours attempting to capture 3-5 minutes of video, and for all of my efforts, the final product sucks. What remains are a pile of outtakes that have to go somewhere in order to justify all of that wasted time. I'm fresh out of shame, kids.

Warning: What you are about to watch is STUPID. Don't come crying to me for your two minutes back, because once you press play, all sales are final.

Friday, June 15, 2012

300. Missouri is Trying to Kill Me

No, I am not being dramatic. I am so very allergic to this state, you have no idea.

There appears to be a direct correlation between high temperatures and the things I am allergic to, because every time it gets really muggy hot out, I lose it.

It began around 9:30 this morning. An itchy sneezy sniffling that escalated into a spiraling face-storm by lunchtime. In desperation, I used my lunch break to run to the gas station, where I purchased tissues and Claritin. The Claritin did nothing. Not even a dent in the waves of mucous.

By 2:00 I was drowning in a full on hurricane of snot, and blowing my nose constantly. No more than a few seconds between, and the tissues couldn't hold up for more than 3 or 4 of my explosions. 4:00 came, and I sat in my chair, steadily dripping from my nostrils, sapped of any will to live. Whenever I sneezed (which happened often), my co-workers would respond with "God bless you". After something like the fiftieth time, I realized they were actually saying it in the superstitious, voodoo use of the term. I think it was around the time one of them said, "God bless you, keep those germs away from me"...

I barely made it home. The tsunami of sneezes made navigating the sea of rush hour a serious challenge. I nearly rear-ended someone while blinded by a particularly large outburst.

Once home, I devoured more Claritin. These are 24 hours pills, which I have doubled up on in the hopes they might work. Had I planned for this, I would have been taking them every day to build up a nice layer of allergen armor in my veins, but who wants to take allergy medicine every day when you only need it sometimes?

I still accomplished errands. At the grocery store, I succumbed to a chain of explosive sneezes that garnered creepy "Gesundheit"s from an old man who appeared to be trailing me through the medicinal aisles. I was sneezing so often, and he was gesundheiting me after every single expulsion, I finally wanted to scream, "SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!" while chucking boxes of generic laxatives and cold medicines at him. 
I might have too, only I felt like such a slimy troll that I scuttled off down the dairy aisle to peruse my cottage cheese options instead.

After I got home, the Wizard and I went back out domesticating. First was Target, where homey goods like new sheets and mirrors and wall hangers were purchased. Then it was on to Weekends Only, where we bounced and wallowed on every single mattress, just like Goldilocks, until we found the perfect one. It arrives on Sunday, and I cannot wait. It has everything; reassuringly firm support, yet the cushy, marshmallowy give that dreams are made of. If only I could curl up on it after a day like today.

This is my 300th post, and I wish it were more commemorative of the occasion. Oh, well.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

299. Tugboats and Barges

It's late, so this post will be short. Just a couple of shots I've been playing with from our bike ride to the river on either image to view larger. I haven't decided if I'm done editing or not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

298. Summer Projects

The other night I sat down and started editing my photos from Chicago. There weren't many shots I was really happy with, and I spent most of the time removing lens spots in spite of the fact that I thoroughly wipe it down every time I take the cap off. I may start carrying glasses cleaner with me, if the spots are going to be that persistent. The shots that I did get fall into the range of satisfied to happily surprised.

Anyway, once I finally began editing, I realized I've finally begun to enjoy the process of working in digital. I am finally starting to feel comfortable editing RAW images in Photoshop, and I was surprised what I was able to salvage from shots I was sure were going to be a loss. Up until this week, my workflow has been totally non-committal. I am rarely patient enough to spend more than a few seconds on any one image. This has resulted in my heavy use of the iPhone as my primary camera and editing studio, and not nearly enough time spent with a real live SLR. My impatience extends to every other medium as well, which means I don't actually do anything. I spend a lot of time coming up with ideas, and not actually pursuing any of them because it takes too long, I don't know how to pull off what I have in mind, or the materials cost too much. Then I work a full time job, try to focus on my college classes on top of that, and still find time to go jogging with my dog. A lot of the time, I wish that the Wizard and I were working on things together, but we rarely do. Our collaborations usually end at bouncing ideas off of one another.

I just feel like I'm waiting for something.


Friday, June 8, 2012

297. Social Network, or Spamming Your "Friends"?

This morning I decided to delete the Facebook app from my phone, and then followed through on that decision. The truth is that I used to like Facebook, and I still appreciate that it keeps me in touch with the people I want to remain close to. I love to share photos and hear about what people are up to. There are lots of other sites I enjoy much more, like Blogger, and Flickr, and even Twitter. Instagram, and Draw Something, and Scrabble, if we're talking iPhone apps.
I realize, however, that most people don't care enough, much less have the time, to follow you on all the smaller but more worthwhile sites.

What I do not appreciate is that my membership on Facebook no longer feels like my decision. Our society has evolved into wanting one hideous monster mega-site for socialization, and that monster is Facebook. You almost have to have an account, whether you want one or not. That might be acceptable if the site were worthwhile, but my feed has digressed into nothing but a scrolling Tumblr account of inane captions plastered across stupid photos. Whoever makes these images is a moron, and I have little respect for the people who feel the need to share them with everyone on Facebook. It is the equivalent of a forwarded chain email. I also realize you can hide people, and unsubscribe from people, and that's great. Except it makes me wonder why I have them on my list at all. Yet just try to remove them, and not have it result in hard feelings. You can't. Delete someone from Facebook, and you have essentially informed them that you would rather not be friends at all. It's juvenile. All of it.

I realized this morning that I check the app far too often because it's there, and because I'm bored at work. It never fails to disappoint me on a level so deep, I actually turn green with Hulkish fury and catch myself muttering a barrage of curse words under my breath.
In extreme cases, I actually start texting my closest friends to complain about how much I hate Facebook. Maybe that makes me a really big jerk, but this morning I realized, that app needs to go.

It was really cathartic. But enough about Faceboob.

It took nearly an entire week to readjust to my normal schedule again. Vacation was wonderful. Frank and Mayday seem relieved that we're home, though.
Things are going well with the new job, my summer class has begun, and the weekend lies ahead.
Thus far, I have no plans but to make blueberry pancakes in the morning.

We stopped at Ikea in Bolingbrook on the way home last Sunday. I scored a new non-stick and a new saucepan. Both are of a much higher quality than you would ever expect at such a reasonable price. The non-stick presented us with a stunning spinach omelet this morning.

We also snagged another gigantic clay pot. Terracotta, actually, and only $8 with the saucer. Milling around at the grocery store a few nights ago, we decided to try growing some okra. I had wanted another tomato plant, but I think it may be too late to start one, and okra is a shamefully under-appreciated gem of summer cuisine. It's one of the fastest seed to harvest plants they had, so I'm hopeful something will come of it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

296. Chi-Chi-Chi-Chicago

I don't even know where to begin. Chicago was so much needed I can't even describe it. We left here needing a trip out of town, and we returned wishing we never left.

Don't get me wrong, the trip was not perfect. Shit downright imploded, right up front. After parking the car in the garage of our swanky hotel, I asked the Wizard, "hey, should I put the club on the steering wheel?" He said, yeah!
I walked to the back of the car and suddenly realized...I DON'T HAVE A KEY FOR THAT CLUB!!!
We spent the next two hours trying to resolve the lock sitch.
I called ONE locksmith. ONE.
They were on North Michigan. Superior Lock.
They said they'd send someone over in 20 minutes.
We waited.
20 minutes came and went, and my phone rang. The woman at the lock shop told me that the tech was having trouble reaching me, it was going straight to voicemail. I apologized, but I'm standing in a parking garage. What can I do, the reception is bad?
I go outside, where I can actually get calls, but discover my voicemails are frozen and won't play on my iPhone.
The technician calls and says he'll be another 20.

20 minutes later, my phone is ringing, but I'm on the phone with Sprint trying to fix my voicemail problem. I put Sprint on hold and answer locksmith, who says he's on the corner, at the light. I wave, saying, "hey, I can see you, hi!" and, "don't park in the garage, it'll charge you". He attempts to pull into the garage and says, "hey, it's going to charge me if I park here". We say, "yeah...that's what we said". He parks on the side of the garage in a 15 minute space, and walks to my car with us. Halfway there, we mention it's a club...
"Um, we don't do clubs".
I am flabbergasted, because I specifically told the phone operator this is a club.
Tech then attempts to charge us $15 for his trip out.
I become angry and call "his boss".
His boss is confused, and says they don't charge a service fee, and that they have no one working for them that looks like the person I am describing.
This is a mystery, but tech takes off. GONE.
So I'm yelling (not really, but I'm kind of agitated) at this guy.
He explains to me that not only does he not have a $15 service charge...he doesn't have a guy fitting my description, but can he have his tech call me back with more details?
We wait.
Tech calls.
We're talking, and he reiterates that there is no guy that looks like what I describe working for them, and they do not charge a fee.
I begin to become suspicious...and ask, "What company do you work for?"

Not Superior Lock.
Not at all.
I can't understand what dood is saying, but he explains that this is a mobile unit that doesn't have an address. Some other name.

I become completed weirded out, and look at the Wizard for instruction.
He appears flabbergasted, and I feel the same.
I disconnect.

We proceed to walk many blocks.
To an Ace Hardware, where we purchase a hacksaw.
We walk back, and DESTROY the club.


Dinner, and an amaaaaaaaazing weekend.

There were so God. I can't even tell you. Chinatown, and gelato, and The Long Room, and a play (The Jammer!!!).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

295. The Countdown Has Begun

Guilty. Blogging at work again.

In exactly four hours and 36 minutes, I will, escape, this building for a full four days. As I walk to my car, and then drive gleefully away, I will be like Lot. I will not look back, for fear that this building may turn me into a pillar of truly ungrateful salt. After all, it is my employer who I should thank for this reprieve from the daily grind I am about to enjoy. For that, I am deeply thankful.
Yet I will not look back.
My mind will already be racing miles ahead of me, wallowing in the joy only freedom can bring.

Tonight is Best Coast, at The Firebird.
They have a new album out, which is currently streaming on NPR (last I checked). I haven't gotten a chance to listen yet because I was busy streaming the new Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I would offer you a link to both albums, but NPR is blocked on this network.
I can blog, but I can't access NPR. Go figure.

By the way, I forgot to mention this in previous posts, but I'm very excited. Miracles do happen. I finished the spring semester with a 4.0 GPA. I received my letter notifying me that I made the dean's list last week! I had been wondering if there even was a dean's list at this school, because I had a 4.0 last semester too. Apparently part time students only qualify every 12 credit hours, instead of each semester. That seems sort of silly, but I'll take it. DEAN'S LIST BABY!

More than likely, this will be my last post until next week. Expect photos!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

294. The Arrival of Summer

Yesterday marked the beginning of a 10 day stretch which has no other choice but to be fantastic. I've been looking forward to it for some time. It was also the first really hot day of the year, and that means summer has officially arrived.

First, the three day weekend, which afforded me the time to invent a pineapple rhubarb and basil pie. Though I think there are some things I would like to amend for future incarnations, namely, using more pineapple, it was definitely a success. There was a nice balance between sweet and sour and a little savory, which I think worked well. Here's a shot of the filling before it went into the crust.

And a shot of the final product...
This charming number is evidence that I lack my grandmother's skills with weaving a lattice-top crust. I think I let the dough sit on the counter and get too warm while I was working on it. In the end, I decided to just fake it by layering the pieces instead of weaving them. The need to practice will just be my excuse to bake more pies.

If you're wondering how to go about inventing a pie, it isn't difficult to do. Find a crust recipe you like. Crusts can be seasoned all sorts of ways to make them more complementary to your fillings, but in this case, I opted for the basic model because I wanted to let the pineapple do the talking. Second, like anything else one does in the kitchen, find a recipe you like and use it as a starting point. This pie was based on a deep dish strawberry rhubarb recipe I made last summer and loved. I swapped the strawberries for pineapple, cut back on the rhubarb, and swapped the cinnamon and nutmeg for fresh basil from our porch. Easy.

Tomorrow I'm visiting my mum, and Monday I have hopes for Memorial Day grill action. I'd like to try grilling veggie burgers. Then it's back to work, but only for two days.
Wednesday night The Wizard and I have tickets to see Best Coast at The Firebird, and there are plans to ride our bikes there. The following morning, Frank-dog will go and stay with my parents for the weekend, and our escape to Chicago begins! In the two years that I have been living back in Saint Louis, I have left town exactly once. We went camping in Southern Illinois for two nights. To say that I need to get away is a gross understatement.

To start our holiday off properly, I've secured a swanky room on The Magnificent Mile for Thursday night, then we'll be moving in with some friends for the rest of the weekend. Friday (day) we hope to check out the Art Institute of Chicago, both for the college and the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit currently on display. We also have tickets to see a friend's play, The Jammer, on Friday night. I am extremely excited, and it should prove to be an action-packed weekend of adventures and fun. A real, not iPhone camera will be accompanying me, but I haven't decided which one just yet. I'm leaning toward film for its decisiveness and character, but I like the flexibility that digital offers. Decisions!

Monday, May 21, 2012

293. Rice Pooding

Just in case you've ever got a bit of a sweet tooth, maybe a pot of leftover rice from dinner, and you think to yourself, "Yeah! Rice pudding sounds good!" Only you don't have whole milk and heavy cream on hand, because who keeps things like that? But you have this can of sweetened condensed milk in your pantry for some reason...
Maybe don't do that.
Because what happens is a pot of sticky almost-pudding that's more nauseating than delicious. And you both (you and your friend or maybe just you by yourself) end up sitting there, eating the wanna-be pudding and kind of feeling more than a little obligated to pretend you're enjoying it. Until one of you starts feeding it to the dog.
At least it made the dog's day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

292. Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Frank and I went jogging this evening. The sun was going down, the weather was lovely. There was an event going on at The Piper Palm House, which means the area in front of Piper Palm, sidewalk included, was blocked off. It was too late to take a real detour, so I decided to cut around through the grass, between the duck ponds.

Like so many of us living in metropolitan areas, city ducks have become accustomed to having a much smaller area for personal space. Sure, they'll run the other way if you start walking toward them, but their flight response is greatly delayed. This is maybe not such a good survival tactic for a duck.

As we detoured from the sidewalk into the grass, we passed several people sitting on a bench, holding two very large and excited dogs. The dogs whined and lunged at Frank. He shot back with something about their mothers and kept right on running.

By then, the ducks should have seen us coming. A sweaty biped with an awkward gait, accompanied by a monstrous beast, all nose and tongue and teeth, headed straight toward them. Their party consisted of at least 4 mallards and several hybrid spawn of domestic and mallard parents, most of whom had been lazing about in the grass, enjoying an afternoon by the pool. Too late, they sensed the apocalypse that was upon them. Without adequate momentum, they couldn't take off, and the water was just out of reach. The group of them zigzagged ahead of us, their big duck tooshies egging Frank into a frenzy. We burst into the center of pack, sending ducks scattering in every direction.

In an instant, Frank had snatched up one of the male mallards and had its entire head in his mouth. I glanced down to see the duck hanging from his jaws, Frank still pacing me like nothing out of the ordinary was happening, the duck relentlessly beating him with its wings in an effort to free itself.
With a quick snap of the leash, the duck was free, and we sprinted away.

Fortunately, the duck seemed fine.
But the dog, he is a Psychokiller. He laughed all the way home.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

291. Relax, I'm a Professional

Blogging on the clock...I am such a rebel.
Things are really slow. I'm still training for my new jobbie (this is week 3), but there is only so much a mind can absorb at once, you know? Plus, it's Thursday, and I am very much looking forward to tomorrow afternoon (it's Friday, no explanation needed).

My spring semester grades should be posted this evening. I'm really nervous. I believe it's going to look like two Bs and two As. There is a possibility that it will be three As and one B. In my dreams, I will squeak through with four As, maintaining my sparkly 4.0 gpa. Let's not hold our breath.

Other adventures. Cliff and Ricka came over for dinner last night. The Wizard made a fantabulous salad and I got to try fresh fennel for the first time. Another of those things I've had on my "to-eat" list forever, but didn't know what to do with. It was quite good, offering a mild crunchiness that we found paired very nicely with red pears and goat cheese. To accompany the salad, we concocted these delightful potstickers filled with eggplant, onion, and zucchini, and seasoned with a little hoisin sauce, red pepper flakes, and dark sesame oil.
Afterward, we all trekked to the park with glasses of wine, played fetch with the Frank-dog, and did cartwheels in the grass.

Back at the abode, the subject of music came up. Lately, I've had a craving to play, but I keep putting it off for no good reason. Last night I finally dug out my clarinet, and I felt an instant connection to it from the moment I started to play. I never really play it because it's had a chip in one of the joints since high school that creates a substantial air leak. I keep meaning to take it in to find out if it can be repaired, but I sincerely doubt that it will be. In which case I need to find out if I can just replace that section of the body, or if the entire thing is a loss, which would make me very sad. The lower register still sounds really warm and rich, but the upper register can hardly squeak out a sound at all. After years of not having much interest in playing it, I've come to miss it more than I ever would have guessed.

As of *I think* June, my viola will be paid in full, and all mine. I'm hoping that within a few months I can start taking lessons again. If I can afford them, that is. I'm toying with the idea of switching between private lessons on all three of my instruments, but viola is my top priority, followed by my clarinet. I'm actually almost too nervous to even consider playing my euphonium in the house...I'm afraid I'll get myself evicted for how loud it is.

All of this has culminated into fantasies of auditioning for the college orchestra. I even went so far as to email the instructor for more information. Unfortunately, the college music program isn't something that's making itself terribly available to me, thanks to my day job. I can manage lower level art classes in the evenings, but things like music theory or those creative writing courses I'm dying to take only happen during the day.
I'm genuinely interested in pursuing music, but I think my options are limited to private lessons for now. Then again, that's not so bad... My viola teacher is a violist with the Seattle Symphony. He has anecdotes about performing with Henry Mancini.
How many people get a chance to train with someone of that level?

Poetry goes less smoothly. I've sat down several times this week to write, but nothing came of it. Everything sounds like forced existentialism and prepositional word association. No bueno a'tall. For now, I'm going to have to find some other project to occupy myself.

Monday, May 14, 2012

290. Container Gardening, Attempt #2.

The Wizard and I spent last weekend purchasing and potting the herbaceous additions to our new balcony. I would have liked more edibles, but we decided to share a little with the butterflies and bees. My fingers are crossed for prolific tomato production, however, and I may venture back to the nursery this weekend for another plant.

On the right, a Mortgage Lifter Tomato, and center, some unknown pink thing:


Tickseed, which claims to attract butterflies:

Some window boxes of Marigolds, and more Ageratum 
(with a squeaky-toy contribution from Frank):


Basil and Cilantro:

A new pot to let Spidey stretch its roots:

A close-up of the Pink Anonymous:

And of course, no porch would be complete without a cat on a bench:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

289. Mad Beets!

Welcome to kitchen stadium! This week's episode, beets!!

This was my first ever encounter with fresh beets. Having watched various chefs prepare them on television, I've always felt sort of intimidated by them. They seemed like they would stain everything in their path, and I tend to be a messy chef anyway. So I wanted to try them, but I was afraid, and kept saying later, later, later. I'm not sure I would have ever stopped saying later if Josh hadn't suggested this as our theme ingredient. And the result was really rather stunning...if I may humbly say so.

The recipe: Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter

Last night, I returned home from Dierbergs with two bunches of organic beets (twice what the recipe called for) because they seemed so tiny, I couldn't imagine 3 beets could ever be enough. Also, I do not own any sort of stand mixer or amazing pasta-making wonton wrappers it is!
I've actually used them to make other ravioli dishes before, and they're great.

Here they are, post scrub.

Next, I slathered each one in a little olive oil, bundled it in foil, and nestled them all together in an 8x8" glass baking dish. Into the oven they go!

The recipe said that it should take about an hour to roast them at 400 degrees, but mine took longer. An hour and a half was just perfect. We had plenty of time to ride our bikes to the store for the ricotta that I forgot I needed, and to plant all of garden additions we picked up at Home Depot earlier this afternoon.
So domestic today!

Worried that I was going to have to explain fuchsia fingers to my co-workers tomorrow, I also picked up a pair of vinyl gloves to wear while peeling. Smart!
The beets themselves were much easier to peel and work with than anticipated.

Once I started grating the roasted chaps into a bowl, I realized that three beets were going to be more than enough. I'm glad that I went ahead and roasted all six, because the leftovers are going to make a fantastic salad tomorrow. I sliced the three extra and tossed them in the fridge.

Here are the three relevant beets, post grating, relaxing in a medium-sized bowl with the ricotta and bread crumbs. They're pretty pleased, here. They're expecting big things.
We decided to use part-skim ricotta, even though the recipe called for whole milk, just to keep things a little healthier.

Up in the left hand corner, you'll notice a yellow scrambly looking mess. That's egg. I like to use raw egg to seal the ravioli (or dumplings, if that's what you're making). The recipe actually calls for water, and it works fine too.

And here are the raviolis, post-stuffing, pre-cooking. I definitely got a little carried away, trying to cram as much filling into each one as I could, which occasionally resulted in squishiness occurring. I'm ok with this. I strive for beautiful food, but in the end, the taste is what matters.

Into the pot they went, and not a single one fell apart. This recipe made SO MUCH FOOD. 
That's exciting though, who doesn't love leftovers? But you could easily make this and plan to serve 4 people. I don't know what most people do with ravioli, but I though they'd enjoy landing on a pile of mixed greens. Next time, I'd like to have some chopped nuts on hand to top them with when they're done, but parmesan and red pepper flakes were equally good. 

May I present, *buh buh buh buuuuuuhhhh!!!*

And it. Was. Badass. 
This recipe rates 5 stars, and I will definitely make it again. It's time consuming; I spent probably 3 hours on it. But so worthwhile. Taste-buds swooned.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

288. I'll Have Another

A more appropriately named horse could not have won this afternoon. If you didn't get to watch the Kentucky Derby, you missed one dandy of a race. I didn't get to attend, but I think we found the practically next best thing. I had the fortune of watching on a big screen, amidst a crowd of people dressed in their finest derby attire, drinking Mint Juleps all afternoon on the patio of The Royale.

Laurel and I completed our derby hats, garnished with horse figurines. I think that hers definitely outdid mine, but I was really pleased with how mine turned out. I was a little confused though...after standing around all afternoon with her, watching her get compliment after compliment, and hearing virtually nothing about mine, I had begun to feel like my hat must not have been half as neato as I thought it was. It wasn't until much later that it hit me.
I'm too tall!

When I put on a pair of heels, I tower over 6 feet. I loomed over most men today. Paired with the fact that everyone was wearing a gigantic hat that obscured their peripheral vision, anyone standing close to me wouldn't be able to see the top of my head.
And everyone who did notice seemed to like it.

Laurel and I competed in the best ensemble competition, but we were beaten by the female incarnation of Uncle Sam. The girl was red, white, and blue from head to toe, complete with striped gloves and a matching iPhone case. She looked like a big bag of crazy, but it was a very fun outfit. I do feel sort of proud of the fact that we were the only two in attendance who had done anything to customize our hats. I was surprised, I really expected everyone would do the same.

This evening I stopped by the grocery store and picked up the theme ingredient for Josh and I's Kitchen Stadium post tomorrow. BEETS!
I have never cooked fresh beets, so I'm a little nervous. We'll see!