Tuesday, January 31, 2012

in which it is unseasonably warm

There are those who like winter to feel like winter. I can understand and appreciate this notion; however, coming from Texas, and having experienced almost solely winters where 50 degrees was consiered pea coat weather, I am not one of these folks. If the temperature in late January decides to go from 25 to 35 to 45 to--!!!--55 degrees, then that is okay with me!

When the temperature sky rockets thus, one sees midwestern men trot around campus in cargo shorts and flip flops. It's a thing. And I am not ashamed to own that I do not understand it.

But these people who prefer their winters to give them snow and 30-degree days...would they rob me of my joy? When I went to the grocery store yesterday, the cashier acquainted me with her displeasure at the sudden warmth. I was so pleased at my grocery-budgeting that I was hardly bothered at the time--but today, on the second day of the insane peek-into-spring, I couldn't help but feel myself frown a bit when both colleagues and passerby remarked that the beautiful day was simply "not right."

All you naysayers, I tell you this: after my classes today I took a stroll down by the river and sat on a stone bench. I read several pages of Clarissa before the shade set in and my bum got cold. The sun on the back of my neck was lovely. Deal with it.

cardigan: JCrew
dress: vintage
boots: gifted, old
belt: thrifted

Monday, January 30, 2012

in which I struggle with that old love-hate relationship with the Internet

In my 18th Century Lit class, we have read many articles thus far this semester on the subject of the Internet. More specifically, how the Internet is contributing to shorter attention spans and struggles with memory. One thought that really struck me was when one writer commented that one can't really turn the Internet off. You can turn off the TV, close a distracting book, or press the stop button on iTunes. But the Internet is just sort-of always running. Although it's possible for an individual to go online, answer a few emails, and then get up and walk away, what more commonly occurs is that a person simply gets lost.

I am a perfect example of this. This past Saturday, I got up at 9 o'clock and realized suddenly that it was after noon before I started to do something productive. Where did the 3 1/2 hours go? I couldn't possibly say; it just happened. After I read 30 pages or so of Faulkner, I called my mother for her birthday. We started looking at Craigslist for R, who is likely to need a new apartment soon. When she had to get off the phone, I found myself lost on Craigslist. And I didn't start reading again until after 5 o'clock.

Luckily, I had a very productive day yesterday. I got through most of my weekend reading, and prepped for teaching all week. All that is left to do is to scarifice going to the gym today in order to finish the articles I didn't get around to--and to go to the grocery store.

sweater: thrifted Woolrich
skirt: American Apparel, very old
tights and socks: Sock Dreams
boots: via my mum
necklace: gifted Ruche
headband: vintage scarf

I really loved this slightly oversized wool sweater. It was a thrift store find last winter here in Iowa City at Good Will, but I think that this might have been the first time that I wore it. What took me so long? I was so cozy curled up in my red chair with Henry James! Sometime I think that my outfit choices contribute to my productivity levels.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

in which I discover that I tend to teach in the same way that Jean Rhys writes

My students watched an episode of Bones on Wednesday, taking notes on the particular uses of ethos, pathos, and logos by expert witnesses during a trial. Today we discussed the episode; I began by asking them for examples of each of the appeals from the episode and then putting each one on the board. Suddenly, and I am not positively sure how this occurred, I was asking them about the criteria by which they shop for a pair of blue jeans. And then sweatshirts. And before I knew what was happening, we were discussing the different appeals that we pay the most attention to when shopping for different types of clothing (jeans=logos; sweatshirt=ethos; jewelry=pathos).

I was heavily reminded of Jean Rhys's writing style, which tends to be very associative. The narrator often ties the present to the past through details like a dress or a certain scent. I'm not sure what this says about me as a teacher, but it felt productive at the time.

burnt orange blazer: vintage Levis
dress: vintage
purple cardigan: Gap
belt: thrifted
leggings: American Apparel
boots: gifted, old

I used to avoid wearing this dress in the winter, because the sleeves are quite large and I didn't think that they would allow themselves to be stuffed into the sleeves of a cardigan. However, on the third grey, almost drizzly day in a row, I felt that it was absurd to keep such a cheery outfit piece out of my winter wardrobe. It took a little extra work to get the sleeves to behave themselves, but I'm pleased nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

in which I am nostalgic for the South; thanks a lot, Faulkner

When I went to college in central Arkansas, my friends and acquaintences from Austin all made fun of me. I could, of course, see their point. That I actually chose to spend four years in a small town without a bookstore and in a dry county--especially after having spent my entire reign as a teenager at live shows, indie movie theaters, used bookstores, and vintage shops in a fairly hip city--seemed absurd. And perhaps it was. But I did not hate Arkansas. In fact, I rather liked it. There was an indie movie theater in Little Rock, 25 miles away. Down the street from campus there was a small antique shop with an entire room devoted to reasonably priced vintage clothes--and, bonus, the owner brought her four dogs and three cats to work each day and let them roam through the store! Every now and then a band I liked would hit Memphis or Little Rock, and if I was lucky, a band that I really loved would play in Dallas on a Friday or a Saturday evening so I could roadtrip there and back without class the next day. (Once, I drove to Dallas to see Stars on Halloween with my roommate and one of our friends; we drove back to Conway the same night and returned just a few hours before my first class on November 1st!)

I liked the ceremony of driving into Little Rock for a date night. And there was just something so delightful about walking down to the one local coffeeshop on a Saturday in the spring and working on an essay all day on the patio between vanilla-almond Italian sodas. How about the gluttonous pleasure of eating fried chicken at the fair every May? And the endearing misspellings of the welcome messages on church signs on the side of the road? Sketchy snow cone and taco carts in grocery store parking lots? Puppies being sold out of the backs of pick-up trucks on Saturday mornings at Wal-Mart? The fake Tex-Mex "cheese dip"?

Ah, nostalgia.

I bring this up because I've started reading Absalom, Absalom! for my Plantation Modernisms course this week. William Faulkner always reminds me of the south, and of Arkansas and Hendrix more specifically. I spent so many of my winter and summer holidays defending the South to old acquaintences from high school, and have subsequently felt the need to defend Southern writers to an academia who seems to have forgotten Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.

boots: gifted Clark's
tights: Sock Dreams
socks: Sock Dreams
dress: thrifted
cardigan: thrifted
beret: Urban Outfitters, old
belt: Ruche

Can I also just come right out and say that this belt is probably one of the smartest wardrobe purchases I made in the entirety of 2011?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

in which I rightfully reaffirm my dislike for Oliver Twist

I've never been a fan of Dickens. I just don't like novels that are preachy, and from everything I've heard about Dickens--particularly with regard to Oliver Twist--I have always felt that I would not enjoy his work. But of course, in my Victorian class this semester, the very first book on the syllabus is in fact Oliver Twist. I tried to vow to keep an open mind, and over the past two days I plunged through about 120 pages.

And I just can't bring myself to plunge through any more.

It's kind of agonizing to read. I'm not supposed to roll my eyes at the cruelty and injustice of Oliver's misfortunes. But perhaps I am grown too cynical as a Modernist, because I found myself heaving impatient sighs and restfully readjusting my position in my armchair, as if that sort of alteration would make me read any faster. When I realized that I had begun to skim the pages rather than actually read them, I tossed the book onto the couch across from me and appealed to Sparknotes. And that's that. I tried. I really did. Let us pass on.

cardigan: thrifted
dress: vintage
both necklaces: gifted
socks: Sock Dreams
shoes: gifted, very old

What to do with a weekend so early in the semester? I watched "Adam's Rib" at Zach's apartment, went to the gym, started rereading Mansfield Park for pleasure, got cream tea with Laura at a little restaurant tucked into southern Iowa City, and started making some mix cds for R. Soon, reading for class will take over my life. But... not yet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

in which I spend the morning watching a flurry above a Budweiser truck

On Fridays I do not teach or have class, so I've been thinking about a possible routine for the day. Today's experiment was to make a leisurely breakfast (read: biscuits and cherry-almond jam), drink a cup of tea, and catch up on the news. I sat down at my kitchen table and opened the blinds--to see a flurry of snow covering the sidewalks in white, and also a gigantic Budweiser truck stationed beneath my window.

For those who are not aware, I live atop a grocery store. Oftentimes trucks will pull up at 5:30 in the morning to unload stock into the establishment, and the curbside at which they unload is directly below my bedroom and kitchen windows. Thus, I receive fairly interrupted sleep several times a week, and this morning I also had a beer truck taking up a quarter of my view of the street below.

In any case, I took in the headlines at The New York Times and read a few articles and moved over the Planetizen, a planning-related website that R introduced me to, where I read a couple of interesting articles about how our brains remember locations and what defines a place, exactly. This may well become my Friday routine, as I'd like to really keep more abreast of the news this year. I feel like academia can be such a bubble sometimes.

I had considered going to the gym before meeting some colleagues at the library later to work on a group mini-project, but when it's snowing I don't really have the motivation to do anything except drink tea and curl up on the sofa beneath my penguin blanket.

cardigan: JCrew
shirt: H&M, old
skirt: thrifted
leggings: American Apparel
boots: Naturalizer
necklace: thrifted
in which I discover that the flavor of turkey is not my favorite

One aspect of returning to Iowa City and a new semester that I had been looking forward to was having my kitchen back. My kitchen is quite large, with vast counter space and two tables available for prepping purposes; I also have a dishwasher. Furthermore, because it has been a working kitchen for over six months, and because many of my cooking staples (such as spices and other 'baking needs' type things like bread crumbs and sesame oil)travelled with me from my old apartment, I simply have more 'on hand,' you might say, than R did in his modest studio.

Once upon a time, for my last one and a half years of college, I began to really enjoy cooking. I hunted for recipes like it was my job. I tried everything that sounded good, even if it required breaking the bank a little with regards to groceries, or spending more time on prep than I could responsibly afford to spare on a weeknight between homework and frisbee practice. I even braved a cockroach-ridden kitchen. But in graduate school I have found that I have both monumentally less money and time. Spending hours on a meal is difficult to justify, and then subsequently facing the mass of dirty dishes by the sink is simply dispiriting. Just thinking about making some of the recipes I so loved as an undergrad is enough to exhaust me after classes on a weekday evening.

But I want to perservere.

Thus, on my first day of classes, I prepared the following dinner: turkey-apple-rosemary meatballs with roasted sweet potatoes and a green salad with a homemade vinaigrette. I adapted the recipe from this Brokeass Gourmet version.

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced finely (about 1/4 cup diced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, lightly-beaten
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp honey
6 fresh rosemary needles, chopped very finely
3/4 tsp each salt and pepper


-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside.
-Combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
-Using hands, form mixture into meatballs and arrange on the oiled baking sheet.
-Bake for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are lightly-browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

(Because the sweet potatoes take longer to roast, you'd want to stick them in the oven, having cut one medium sweet potato into bite sized pieces subsequent to peeling it, about 40 minutes before the meatballs. Put the salad together when the potatoes and meatballs have about 15 minutes left--I say this because it takes me an inordinately long time to chop carrot sticks into little carrot discs).

The meatballs were fine. I didn't love them. I feel like I used too little rosemary, not being sure of how much to mix in. I couldn't taste the spices at all; I just felt like I was eating plain turkey meatballs with a slightly sweet edge to them. And just plain ground turkey meatballs? Not delicious--or at least, not to me. I think it is a personal taste thing, though. And having had them heated up for dinner with another salad two nights ago, I can say that they do reheat well, and that knowing what to expect I didn't mind them as much. In the future, I would use a generous amount of the fresh rosemary, and add more pepper.

Although the lighting in my office is not the best, I did try to take a few photos of my first-day-of-classes outfit:

sweater: JCrew
belt: Ruche
dress: vintage
tights: Sock Dreams
socks: gifted Target
boots: gifted Clark's
necklace: antique, from street vendor in Notting Hill

I love this JCrew sweater. Why did I never think of wearing crew-neck sweaters over dresses before? Unfortunately, this is the only one that I own. Now that I have students I have to try to make sure I don't wear it too many times each week, as I had a habit of doing while I was in Austin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

in which I begin to wonder if I own too many books

I have two gigantic bookcases from IKEA in my living room, which until recently held all of my fiction and nonfiction books. My comic books (Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes) and old textbooks (French and Ancient Greek), as well as my small collection of "Very Short Introduction" books (Literary Theory, Barthes, Foucault, Existentialism, Post-Modernism, Dada and Surrealism, Judaism, Kierkegaard, Nietszche, Hegel, and Heidegger) all sit comfortably on a built-in bookshelf with my board games and barely-functioning typewriter.

When I returned from Austin, I began to unpack all of my new books (except for the 10 that I had to leave with R for lack of room in my bags). But I was struck by the lack of space for these books. I have begun to lay books on top of the rows of books, which is something that I have always felt looks sloppy. I cringe. As someone who likes to have a neat apartment, and indeed almost requires one in order to concentrate on work, I am worried that I might not have anywhere to put future books. And--where in the world would I put an additional bookcase?

Oh, the woes of a bookworm. Until I win the lottery I won't have the money to purchase a house big enough to have my dream library with the swinging ladder (see Beauty and the Beast). What to do in the meantime?

sweater: vintage
skirt: Anthropologie
shirt: thrifted JCrew, very old
tights: Sock Dreams
boots: gifted Clark's

This outfit was for my first day back in Iowa, which was also my last day of 'vacation.' I bought a plethora of groceries, unpacked, and watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice while eating a copious amount of fresh popcorn. Of course, I was only able to do all of these things after I tried to start my car and found that the battery was DEAD. At which point AAA had to come out and test it, and jump it, and then ultimately replace it. Thanks, Iowa, for the warm welcome back.
in which I wake up and there are no degrees

The idea of it being 0 degrees outside has always fascinated me.0 means none. 0 degrees means that there are no degrees. What does that even mean? How can there be none? There is no temperature? No warmth? But what about the negatives? How can there be less than none of something? It boggles my mind.

However, this morning, I woke up, and my phone told me that the temperature was indeed 0.

Cue cranking up of the heater and walking around with a fleece penguin blanket wrapped around myself.

In other news, I've returned to Iowa. Clearly. Classes have begun! I'm teaching one section this semester, and thus taking three classes. It should be less of a balancing act than it was in the fall... but, we'll see. Now I am merely trying to get back into the swing of things; I should really stop looking on Weather.Com to see what the temperature is in Austin that I am missing.

blazer and dress: vintage
beret: Urban Outfitters, old
tights: Sock Dreams
boots: gifted

This outfit was from my second-to-last full day in Austin, in which I went out to lunch with R to one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants and then read Kathleen Stewart's Ordinary Affects at one of my favorite coffeeshops before meeting two of my favorite former high school teachers for BBQ. And now, having just typed that sentence, I find myself missing not only warmer weather but Tex-Mex and BBQ.

Friday, January 13, 2012

in which I go on a taco adventure

Thing #1 that I love about Austin: tacos. Tacos, tacos, tacos. It is not uncommon for me to eat nothing but tacos for three straight meals when I am in Austin.When I was a little girl, my family frequented a restaurant called Amaya's Taco Village--the owners go to our church, which I suspect is how we found out about it. When I was in middle school, Amaya's Taco Village changed its location from south-central Austin to north-east Austin, and my family stopped eating there as often due to the length of the drive. However, I went to a magnet highschool that was also in north-east Austin, and so often after picking me up from softball practice my mother would suggest that we eat at Amaya's for dinner and wait out the traffic. Then, when I started driving myself, I began to stop at Amaya's before school to pick up breakfast tacos. (Or, skipping my first class with a friend or a beau and sitting down to eat breakfast tacos). When I went off to college in central Arkansas, I managed to run my route by Amaya's on the interstate, and I would purchase about a dozen tacos for the road that day and to eat as breakfast leftovers.

Long story short: these are some damn good tacos.

Just this past year, Amaya's changed locations again. Luckily, they did not move far--simply across the highway--and so they are easy to approach by motor vehicle. Not-so-luckily, this new location proves very difficult to reach by public transportation. The former location was a block off of a downtown bus route. But, as I discovered yesterday, the new location is about a 15-20 minute walk from the bus stop on a path mostly without sidewalks and crossing a major intersection aside a major highway.


But, the reward for my efforts? See below:

From left to right: sausage, potato and egg taco; bean and cheese taco; bacon, potato, and cheese taco; all on corn tortillas with homemade salsa

The downside is that I can probably never go to Amaya's for dinner again unless I'm with someone in a car, because that walk would not be even remotely safe in the dark. But rather than dwelling on this injustice, let us move on. To clothes:

jacket: Gap
scarf: gifted
sweater and jeans: JCrew
boots: gifted
beret: a hat store in Madison, WI

Monday, January 09, 2012

in which I lose at Scrabble, but not at life

One of my favorite things about Austin is the coffeehouses. I could give you a list right now of my favorite ones, and another Austin local would probably come along, list her favorites, and they would be establishments that I haven't even discovered yet! In other words, Austin is full of coffeehouses. And they are mostly wonderful. My own personal love affair with coffeehouses began... I don't even know when. But what I love about a good coffeehouse isn't the good coffee (though of course, that helps), but the atmosphere. I love sitting in a squishy armchair and reading for hours (if I am there for pleasure), or camping out at a table by a window with my laptop (if I am there to do work). It's important that the coffeehouse not play loud and distracting music, and I also prefer a coffeehouse to have some food options available.

One of my favorite things to do at a coffeehouse is go on a Scrabble date. Years and years ago I received a travel-Scrabble set for Christmas, and I admit that I have put it to good use since--in Austin, but also in Arkansas, Oregon, and Iowa. R and I recently went on a Scrabble date to Mozart's, a coffeehouse on the lake that I have not been to in years because of its location. But the day was a warm and sunny one, so I suggested this (admittedly expensive) coffeehouse with plenty of outdoor deck seating over the lake. Mozart's not only has self-roasted coffee, but, for perhaps which they are most often utilized, specialty desserts like fruit tarts. My favorite aspect of the establishment, however, is that they allow dogs on their deck outside. So we alighted on Mozart's, found a seat on the deck, and prepared for an afternoon of reading, dog-watching, and Scrabble.

I lost. Actually, I kind of got my ass kicked. R is a formidable Scrabble opponent, and our games tend to be rather close. However, in this game, owing to a surplus of useless 'u's, I struggled and fell quite behind until the last few turns when I was able to make a profitable play with an 'x.' But I was unable to recover.

I can be fairly competitive, but on this particularly sunny afternoon I was less phased. The sun on the water was glorious, and the ducks communicating in a way that had yet to cease being quaint. There were fuzzy dogs abound on the deck, and my vanilla-almond Italian soda was delicious. My company was handsome, and we had plans to get BBQ later. I couldn't possibly have complained.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

in which I make resolutions

What would the new year be without any resolutions? I feel like I always resolve to do the following:

-lose weight
-learn to love myself

and that I generally succeed to some degree, but never to that which I had intended. So let's try this again. 2011, you were a pretty fantastic year. I taught my first classes, left an elusive note in front of a beautiful stranger at a coffeehouse and subsequently began a relationship with said beautiful stranger. I ceased my previous gym mania and began to grow slightly more comfortable with my body. But let's see if we can do even better this year.

1. Be comfortable in my own skin.
I feel like this desire is what lies at the bottom of my preoccupation with creating outfits and putting them on display on this blog. If I like what I wear, I believe that I will learn to like how I look, and as a result be more confident in general. I should go to the gym--but not obsessively. I enjoy a good solid run with my desperate-sounding angsty music from early high school. When I work out regularly, I tend to stress out much less about school and about my personal life. I want to strive to make these the reasons that I go to the gym on a weeknight--not because I ate at Chipotle the afternoon before or because I watched (500) Days of Summer and got depressed because I don't look like Zooey Deschanel.

2. Keep in touch with far-flung friends.
An inevitable side effect of going to graduate school far from both my hometown and the town where I went to college has been that I don't live near any of my old friends. These friends are scattered throughout the country, at graduate school in Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia, or working jobs in Arkansas, Utah, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Furthermore, when I was in high school I did quite a bit of Harry Potter roleplaying online. Through this I met some amazing folks online, and some of us have kept in close touch--but, again, we do not live anywhere near each other! So, this year, I want to take the time to write letters, make phone calls, have Skype dates, exchange emails, with the wonderful people in all of these states (and others I haven't listed!) who have supported me... some for over a decade.

3. Read more.
I don't read enough. Don't argue with me. If I spent less time on Facebook, less time watching things on Netflix, I could be reading critical articles and nonfiction books and even--gasp!--novels that are unrelated to my classes. End of story.

4. Save money.
In order to have the freedom to spend the summer wherever I'd like, I need to be scrupulous with my earnings. I want to have the ability to both maintain my current lodgings in Iowa and travel.

R and I rang in the new year at a jazz bar downtown. Funnily enough, the bar is nextdoor to the building where my dad used to work; he told us that he sometimes went to that bar after work in the 1980s. So, to rephrase: R and I rang in the new year at a jazz bar that my dad used to go to. Jazz, a German white beer (well, three of them), and my delightful boyfriend. I received my midnight kiss. It was lovely.

I now have less than two weeks left in warm, sunny Austin. I'm starting to make a list of the places I want to eat, shop, and visit before I leave. I'm in no hurry to return to the cold, but it is time to start looking at revising my syllabus and rearranging my life for the new semester.

sweater: Coldwater Creek, very old
dress: thrifted vintage
tights: Sock Dreams
boots: gifted, old