Saturday, March 29, 2008

Desperation Is The Mother Of Invention

A tasty drink to have while sitting by the fire in late March, dreaming of sunshine:

Frozen strawberries, frozen peaches, vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, a dash of vanilla syrup and a handful of candied ginger, all puréed in the blender.

First Saturday Without Working In Way Too Long

The thunder storm woke me up at 7:30am. Felt remarkably alert for having survived Margarita Happy Hour with the girls last night. Watched the original Manchurian Candidate. Sooo good. Angela Lansbury is the best creepy mom ever. I might need a Queen of Diamonds costume for Halloween this year. With the cape and everything.

Made a potato/pepper/chorizo/egg/tortilla casserole type-deal of my own invention and two lattes for brunch. Delicious and not as greasy as you might expect. Went to the library with D.. Checked out books - one on digital photography (I'm gonna learn how to MASTER this dang camera if it kills me), a collection of essays by George Saunders, and one about Jim Jarmusch. The woman to whom I paid my fine (still waiting for the Netflix of books...late fees are the death of me) was oddly rude. When I asked if a "block" on my account meant I couldn't check out books today with probably a slightly panicked edge to my voice, she sharply replied, "I didn't say that." Or maybe I am just oddly sensitive. That happens, you know.

Decided to check out UofA's Horse Festival. It was cold and muddy. Horse people must in a collective shitty mood because I couldn't wait to get away from them. The horses must've picked up on the energy too because there was a LOT of anxious whinnying going on. Disappointed that I missed the One Arm Bandit. Pretty sure I am overly sensitive today.

Checked the mail. Oooh, a birthday package from Kate and Chris (yay!) and also one from my mother whom I haven't spoken to in over 15 months. Huh. Okay.

Home to build a fire, cuddle with the cat, and crack open the books. Digital photography book is stupid. Not enough "how-tos" and too many "creativity exercises." Have a sinking feeling about the Jim Jarmusch book. The first essay references Saussure, Foucault, AND Roland Barthes already in the first three pages. Have violent flashbacks to my one horrible semester in grad school and promptly take a nap while listening to old Fresh Airs.

D. wants me to be proud of him for getting a "gourmet" frozen pizza instead of his usual Red Barons. "It cost seven dollars!" He tells me, waving it enticingly in my face.

Uploaded the CD Kate and Chris gave me. Bon Iver. Who? Am now officially dependent on the younger generation to keep me informed of new music.

Don't want to leave the house but feel vaguely restless. Liquor cabinet (which also happens to be the same as the cooking oil and vinegar and hot sauce cabinet) inventory: 1/2 a bottle of vodka, 1/3 a tiny bottle of rum cream from my sister's last trip to Jamaica, and one bottle of wine, decorked more than ten days ago). Potential mixers inventory: orange juice, flat Coke, milk. Hmmm. Never cared for screwdrivers. Coke and vodka sounds like something a character in a Judith Krantz novel would drink. "Simone slid into the leather booth and ordered a vodka and Coke, winking at the hunky bartender." Vodka and milk? Am cured of my fleeting desire for a drink.

What to do. What to do.

Believe me, I have NO LACK OF THINGS NEEDING TO BE DONE.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why I Just Can't Open My Eyes Anymore

Headlines I've encountered today:
AND THIS IS JUST IN THE PAST 24 HOURS!!!

I wonder where can I get me some of that antidepressant-tainted water? That's what we'll have in 10 years from now, no more Vitamin Water (how 00s)....instead it'll be Prozac Water. And we'll pay $20 for a plastic bottle of it.

I'm going to bed to have a good cry, do some stretches, and get up tomorrow to do this all over again.

Greatly Overdue

The other day Kelly said, "I always know when you're busy because you don't post anything for days."

So yeah, you can say that again.

I won't even go into everything that's been keeping me busier and busier than ever (it's work. What else?), but here are some pictures...hopefully they're worth thousands of words that I'm thinking but can't write.


I guess this means going back to February. We loved our time with Miho, our Japanese exchange student. She cooked with me a lot. Isn't she the cutest?She showed me how to make delicious chicken curry.
She even brought her own rice.
Obnoxious nearly-teenager
My standard salad
Puppy cuddling

Emiko came to visit and was kind enough to bring her mother, Amy, with her
A certain someone turned 13 (!!)
Lemon cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting
I finally got a little quality time with girlfriends
Cute Robin with her cute bangs
D. playing in Eureka

It rained and rained in Arkansas

Beaver Bridge - partially submerged
High water & Smith's Castle
Redbuds. Harbingers of Spring!
Daffodils or Jonquils? You make the call

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pinch My Penny

It seems like all we hear about is how our economy is in the toilet and things are only going to get worse. The message is that we should be tightening our belts, but I don't see rampant consumerism lessening any time soon. A few weeks ago Terri at Life + Kids asked me to write something for her Frugal Week. It's a very timely subject, considering that in 2006 Americans' savings rate was negative and we continue to spend with abandon. Let's remove any negative connotations for the word "frugal" while we're at it, too.

There are a few ways I manage to live a good life with spending as little money as possible. My tips certainly aren't earth-shaking or revolutionary, but if used consistently, they really work.

  • Buy in bulk. We don't have Costco here and I am not a fan of Sam's Club....but I love the bulk bins at our health food store. The other benefit of buying from bulk bins is reduced packaging.
  • Use your library! Our wonderful Fayetteville Public Library, for instance, has a huge selection of DVDs, CDs and, of course, books all free to check out for two weeks at a time. They also offer free computer usage and internet time to patrons.
  • Use less of things. You only need to use a small amount of detergent to wash a load of clothes, for instance.
  • Have clothing swaps with your friends. Everyone brings good quality clothes that, for whatever reason, they don't wear anymore. Then everyone leaves with new clothes and without spending a dime.
  • As often as possible, make whatever you can from scratch. It is so much cheaper to buy a big ol' can of whole tomatoes, some garlic, onions, and basil then to buy pre-made tomato sauce. The same goes for dried beans (soooo cheap and so easy to make delicious).
  • This goes without saying (I hope), but cook at home as often as possible.
  • Combine errands so you're not running all over the place.
  • Use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper products.
  • Make your own cleaning supplies with ammonia, white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. They're not only more affordable, but nontoxic as well.
  • Only buy new clothes if they're on sale. Because they will all eventually be on sale.
See? These tips aren't painful or embarrassing or too hard. But they will make a difference.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Really Hate The Phrase "Playing The Race Card."

Can't we talk about race without it being couched in gambling terms? Barack Obama's speech today about race was, in a word, amazing. When have you heard this topic approached with such insight, honesty, and obvious dedication to opening up a true dialogue? I thought it showed leadership on a level to which we Americans just are not accustomed. This is what I want from my elected leader - someone not afraid to tackle the difficult topics that the majority of our country wishes we could just "get over."

But check out the unfortunate camera position on Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. Just above his shoulder - "Race White." Oops!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tales From The Trenches

Just one crazy part of my job is to make sure that my students' arrivals and departures at the airport go fine. So I'm often dealing with the intricacies of international travel without actually getting to internationally travel. I also attend to just about their every need for the nine weeks that they are here. I have done everything from take students to the hospital to explain how a bank account works to scrub out the pubic hairs in the showers of their apartments. I often feel like a mother of 15 special-needs children....who don't speak the language. But it makes for some good stories. For instance:
This past Sunday morning I'd already taken one group of students to the airport at 4:00am and had to double back to pick up another group at 5:45am. This was a group of five Russians. That's a lot of bags, a lot of people to check in at once, and a whole lot of opportunities for things to go awry, in case you were wondering. So we've loaded up the big van and we're all ready to go except for one guy who is nowhere to be found. I knock and knock on his door and finally just go up into his room.....where he is fast asleep, on the floor, under his desk and desk chair. This is a man who is married and father to an eighteen year-old son. He is older than I am and yet I must stand over him and yell into his boozy ear, "WAKE UP! We are late for the airport!" We're nearly to the airport when he informs me that he's made a mistake. "Oh no," I think, "If he's forgotten his passport I will kill him." But instead he's forgotten his sweater. I am so relieved that I forget to treat it like the serious loss he implies it is.

Then there's the time that a student from Palestine was on his way to the airport to return home and asked if he could STOP AT BEST BUY BECAUSE HE NEEDED TO BUY A COMPUTER FOR HIS FAMILY. You know, just make a little computer purchase pit stop on the way to the airport.

I usually miss the students when they leave but I'd by lying if I said I'm not always a little relieved when I see they've made it safely through security and are on their way to the gate.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Desert Island Ingredients

Last night was the premiere of the new season of Top Chef. Yay!

I read the blogs on the Bravo website and one thing that irritates me about Tom Colicchio is how he always says, "I don't care about the personalities. I only care about the food." Well...okay. Easy for HIM to say...he gets to taste the food! For the OTHER millions of us who can't taste the food, we only have the personalities and the descriptions of the food to go on.

I imagine it's getting harder and harder to cast this show, as the restaurant world is actually fairly small. I guess they're getting around this by allowing contestants to know each other beforehand, hence Jennifer and Zoi, who are a couple.

I could hardly believe it when I saw MORE MOHAWKS (or, ahem, "faux-hawks") last night! Please! Stop the madness! And I think I can happily live the rest of my life without ever encountering the phrase "molecular gastronomy" ever again. Just cook the f'in food, already, okay? Don't bring out your nitrogen and teeny-tiny handheld smoker. I don't want James Bond cooking my food.

And what was up with that guy Andrew? He seemed flummoxed when the pantry had no mayonnaise. Um, even I know how to make my own mayonnaise. No big deal. Plus he seems overly hyped up and confrontational. We'll see how far that takes him.

Another different rule this season is that they're allowed to bring $200 worth of their own ingredients and seasonings. I think that's more than fair. It helps to have a bag of tricks to dig in to when you're faced with a particularly difficult challenge. It got me thinking what I would bring if I had to have my own culinary stash of secret weapons. I'm not classically trained or consider myself a "chef" by any means....but I know I couldn't cook a decent meal without at least the following few ingredients that might not be featured in an average pantry:
  • toasted sesame oil
  • vanilla beans
  • wildflower honey
  • stone ground corn (either for grits or polenta)
  • candied ginger
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Whole spices - whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, star anise, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dried chiles
  • Can I bring my own fresh herb garden too? There's nothing like picking your own basil leaves, rosemary stems, thyme, oregano, etc.
  • Good, artisinal vinegars (rice, sherry, champagne, balsamic)
  • miso - light & dark
I'm sure there are more. What would you bring?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not A Fun Topic, But Necessary

A University of Arkansas student was murdered over the weekend. Yet another young woman's life prematurely cut short. Unlike what happened in Alabama or North Carolina, though, this appears to be the result of domestic violence. I can't stop thinking about her and her family.

Check out the comments section of the online article in a local paper. These people who are all, "Oh, I don't know if I'd feel comfortable sending my daughter to college in Fayetteville now. It's so dangerous" seem to miss the point completely. This wasn't a random violent crime. It's a horrible and tragic result of a destructive relationship. If we raised daughters to have self-confidence and self-respect, to get out of situations that don't feel good or are upsetting and destructive, perhaps they'd be less likely to get caught up in relationships with violent a-holes. I'm not placing blame on parents, because that's just too easy. We also live in a culture that is subconsciously disrespectful to women all over the place. Or maybe not so subconsciously (why hello, Eliot Spitzer! Certainly didn't expect to see you here!)

It's a scary time to have a daughter. But then again....when isn't it?

Confession


Yesterday afternoon I was supposed to be hard at work on an academic calendar for this grant proposal we're working on....

But instead I went in search of and entered EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE internet sweepstakes that offers a vacation as a prize. Magazine web sites are good sources for these, in case you're as desperate as I am to be anywhere but here.

I know it's pathetic and lame and as likely to have a happy outcome as the latest season of Rock of Love....but I'm pathetic and lame and want a free vacation. I mean, someone has to win those things, right?

What have you done lately that you know is pathetic with mathematically impossible odds stacked against you?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Finally! A Diagnosis!

Jessica just told me I have "The Yuck."

Apparently it's going around. If I have breathed on you in the past few weeks - well, I'm really sorry because there's apparently no inoculation and no cure! Get some movies you don't mind sleeping through and prepare yourself for the tiredest week(s) ever.

Under The Weather

It seems I have some sort of mystery virus.

I've been to the doctor twice in the past week which is more times than I usually go in a year.

No fever. That stumps the medical profession. They really want this to be the flu, since everyone has had the flu this winter. But no flu. No Strep. Sore throat, body aches, skin sensitivity, and massive, overwhelming, extreme fatigue. Like I have to take a nap after giving Stella a ride to a friend's house. I have to lie down after rinsing out a water glass. I tried to go back to work on Thursday and fell asleep at my desk more than once.

But I can't miss any more work. Too much to do. So tomorrow will probably be the Worst Monday In The History of Mondays.

Pray for me (if that's your thing).

Oh yeah. And this time change can suck it. I WANT MY HOUR BACK!!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Drug-Induced Movie Reviews

Pretty much all I've been able to do the past two days is lie in bed, eat popsicles to soothe my throat, take hydrocodone and anti-virals, and employ the Watch Instantly function of Netflix on my laptop. When it debuted a few months ago their selection was pretty crappy, but it seems to be getting better. I was quite pleased with what I was able to just click on and watch:
  1. 2 Days in Paris. I really loved this film! Not ONLY is Julie Delpy awesome for writing, directing, and editing (not to mention writing a song for) this film of hers - she's also very funny in it. We desperately need more (female) directors who can be dry and self-depracating and still enjoyable to watch. I like that she made her character not-all-that-likeable. It's a very funny film about 30something relationships, cultural differences, fishes out of water, distrust, tourism, language barriers, and meeting the parents. I can't wait to watch it again on our bigger television screen.
  2. Helvetica. I'm not a designer. I don't think about fonts that much. But I really loved this documentary about the history and ubiquitousness of Helvetica. If a film can make typeface interesting to non-designer geeks, then that's really saying something. I can't stop staring at signs, posters, and book covers now.
  3. Downtown 81. Okay so this wasn't exactly a captivating film. For some odd reason I became obsessed with the New York City downtown arts scene when I was 13 years old, living about as far away from it as possible - in a tiny farmhouse in the Ozarks. I was obsessed with Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, Cy Twombly, The Warhol Factories, and, of course, Jean-Michel Basquiat. I still love reading about that time and this film made it come alive for a little while. I still love the music of that era, too. The Lounge Lizards, The Plastics, etc.
Now they're saying more snow. We're finally getting another wood delivery today. I am very much looking forward to fires and Netflix deliveries this weekend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yuck.

We had one of those typical awesome/ridiculous Arkansas snow days today. The kind where we wake up to a few inches of beautiful snow, schools are canceled, and then it's all melted by noon. Even the University closed, which meant I got the day off!

Unfortunately I wasn't able to take pictures of what would probably be our last snow of the season or even enjoy this day off in the slightest. Instead I spent the majority of the morning with severe pain in my throat and body and then at the doctor's office, waiting over an hour to see her. I thought I had strep throat but instead it's your average viral infection. Fun.

I'm going back to bed.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sexist Headline of the Day

Music By Women With Looks....And Talent

Seen this morning on Yahoo's home page. As though it's highly unusual. Those ellipses REALLY PISS ME OFF!

In related news, I can't wait to hear Erykah Badu's new album. Or Shelby Lynne's Dusty Springfield tribute.