Thursday, December 29, 2011

in which I have dreams about fezes

Excerpted from my dream journal: "I was on a bus and the Eleventh Doctor--wearing his fez--sat behind me. He said, 'Don't I know you?' and we studied each other. He showed off his fez, and I said that I liked it. He took it off and put it on my head. 'They're very expensive now, unfortunately,' he told me."

The subconscious of a geek, apparently.

If you're wondering what it is that a grad student does during the winter holidays, let me give you the low-down. The lo-down? The low down. Anyway.

1. Read.

Yes. This doesn't sound all that different from what a grad student does during the semester, now does it? I'm just finishing up a biography of Jean Rhys, which unfortunately was not particularly well written or informative. And I am still pondering the ethics of its very existence, seeing as Jean Rhys stated very explicitly before her death that she did not want anyone to write a biography of her after she was gone. A couple of days ago I started reading the new translation of The Second Sex (Simone de Beauvoir) which R had surprised me with for my birthday this past year.

I also recently completed Hotel World by Ali Smith, one of the only contemporary authors whose work I am familar with due to a class in contemporary British fiction that I took 5 years ago. It was decent; I like the idea of different story lines coming together loosely, but I didn't feel particularly driven to reach the end. For a short book, it felt rather like a chore to finish reading. The first section is from the point of view of the ghost of a nineteen-year old girl who has just died by plummeting to the ground in a dumbwaiter at the hotel where she works. There is a part where the ghost interacts with the physical corpse of the girl--they have an actual conversation in her grave--and that was both an interesting idea and well done. But the rest of the short novel did not reach the expectations that this beginning section set forth.

On the plane to Austin several weeks ago I finished Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows. I found this novel downright bizarre. A couple of hundred pages in, the narrative of a family who never has much money due to the father's unscrupulous 'investments' is starkly interrupted by a chapter in which young teenager narrator Rose and her mother go to visit their cousins and encounter poltergeists. After the chapter, where the poltergeists up and leave due to the high spiritual energy they sense within Rose and her mother, they are almost never mentioned again and the narrative resumes matter-of-factly, as if ghosts who throw dishes and rip clothes off of the clothesline are a routine matter in interwar Britain. Rebecca West, I ask you: what?

2. Watch TV via Netflix.

I just finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey on Netflix. I love it. How could I not? The books I read for fun tend to be written between 1815 and 1945, and I absolutely love period dramas (or comedies)when it comes to film. So, naturally, this television show about the aristocratic family living at Downton Abbey and their household staff in the period just before the first World War (the first episode is in 1912, the day the Titanic sank, and the season ends with England's declaration of war on Germany) as good as had my name on it. Bonus: the actor who portrays Harriet Jones in Doctor Who is in the show, as well as Maggie Smith.

R has a thing for the show Bones, so I watched a couple of episodes from the 4th season to placate him. He thought that because the two episodes were set in London that I would be sure to fall in love with the show. While I did not fall in love, I was intrigued, so we've started to watch the first season and quite frankly at this point I find it addictive. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I grew up watching Law and Order and CSI with my Dad, when there would be several episodes on one after the other post-dinner.

3. Go on dates.

The fact that I have an abundance of free time combined with the fact that I am taking my vacation to live with my long-distance boyfriend means that multiple nights a week are date nights. We go to dinner; we get drinks; we read at coffeeshops; we come home and watch movies. Sometimes I even meet R for lunch in the middle of the day--like today, for instance, I believe we are going to try some of the famous food carts on South Congress (Hey Cupcake! originated here, if you are one of the people who are not from Austin but who pay attention to these things).

And so, all of that being said, how does a grad student dress during the winter holidays to do these things?

shoes: gifted Clark's (thanks, Mum!)
tights: JCrew
skirt: gifted Anthropologie (again, thanks, Mum!)
shirt: American Apparel
necklace: gifted
purse: Le Mode

I don't quite dress like this every day. This outfit was for date night! R and I went to a pub for a couple of drinks after he left work. I don't see myself as donning these heels too too often, unless I get used to them quickly. You might have noticed that aside from boots, I am inexperienced in heels.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

in which Christmas happened

The winter holidays seem to be a time of tradition for most folks. This is not quite the case with me, for various reasons. My extended family lives in Washington and Alaska, so we have not gathered together for a Christmas since I was 8 years old. Members at our Christmas dinner table have, I think, been different and in flux for the past five years. One of my grandparents is in a nursing home now, so she does not spend Christmas morning with us any longer. My dog died three years ago, and now we are joined by my mom's beagle, Baylee, instead when we open presents. This year, because he did not return to Iowa, R spent Christmas with myself and my parents.

The only few things that have never changed regarding Christmas at my parents' house are as follows:

-on Christmas Eve after mass we eat a glorious amount of tamales with queso and then watch a Christmas movie (for the past 6 years, this movie has been Love Actually)
-on Christmas morning, we open our stockings and then have more tamales for breakfast
-we open the presents from under the tree
-Christmas lunch/dinner is essentially the same as Thanksgiving dinner

I hope I never go a single Christmas Eve in my whole life without tamales. My dad sent an extra dozen of them home with myself and R to eat this week, too!

I grew up in Austin, so it is important also to note some of the holiday traditions of the city itself. For as long as I can remember, there has been a gigantic tree of lights in Zilker Park, which is near downtown, for the greater portion of December and into the new year. Originally, the tree accompanied the Trail of Lights, which was unfortunately, heartbreakingly discontinued due to budget cuts. The Trail of Lights was in the gigantic field across the street from Zilker Park (where ACL Fest takes place annually); one was supposed to park at Zilker across the street and then walk through the various displays of lights through the park (hot chocolate or apple cider from a vendor: optional)and return to the gigantic Zilker tree at the end of the excursion and grasp hands with a friend/lover/stranger/relative and spin around beneath the tree, looking up into the swirling strands of light. When I was growing up, I used to volunteer at the Trail of Lights with Girl Scouts every year and distribute short surveys at the exit. It was just part of being in Austin for the holidays; families and couples loved this bit of FREE holiday fun.

I decided that R ought to experience at least the Zilker tree, because he is new to Austin. We took a date night to eat dinner and sip margaritas at Chuy's, and then walked with full bellies to the tree. Due to the previously mentioned full bellies, there was certainly no spinning! But we walked beneath the tree--snapped some pictures--and observed the other groups of people present. Many others spinned. Some consumed overpriced funnel cake from a vendor. Though it was a cold night (by Austin standards, anyway), people had flocked to the tree and it was delightful to witness.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

in which I am in warm ATX but I showcase outfits from snowy IC

Well, it has been a struggle. I got my two end-of-term essays in, and posted grades for my 40 students. All of this with--still--no functioning laptop of my own. I ordered the wrong replacement keyboard for my mini Dell, and then forgot to bring the power cord for my giant Dell to Austin with me, so I have been using R's laptop for all academic needs. And, as a result, not using a computer at all for other needs--which includes, obviously, blogging!

But then I realized that I miss blogging, and that I almost have a 30-for-30 going on here for the next 30 days in any case due to my limited wardrobe. So, expect periodic, though not daily, posts.

The temperatures here range from 55-70 degrees during the day, so I haven't really been needing to layer much. It is an odd feeling not to need a coat when I leave the house. The outfit you are about to see was donned during completely opposite weather:

boots: Clark's, gifted
jeans: Gap
shirt and scarf and coat: thrifted
beret: hat store in Madison
brooch: vintage

cardigan and dress and belt: thrifted
socks: Target
boots: Clark's, gifted

I do not miss the cold. Yesterday morning I went jogging around the lake, and it was about 50 degrees and windy. The only thing I miss about Iowa City is having somewhere indoors to work out, because that wind was hurting my throat!

In the near future: thrifting adventures

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

in which finals week swallows me whole

I have a few days' worth of outfit photos on my camera, but my dear readers, I have been so busy trying to get through my term papers and my grading that I just don't believe I'll have the time to post those until this weekend!

Just an update: I'm in Austin now, trying to get through my essay on the domestic in Mrs. Dalloway while R is at work, and then enjoying his company in the evenings. We have watched much West Wing in only two days.

This post is an example of the many ways I have somehow managed to find to procrastinate.