Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday: in which I hope a Ruche skirt gets restocked

I want this skirt. Unfortunately, by the time that I decided that I could afford it, it was out of stock. Perhaps this setback is for the best, financially speaking. But I do have about $14 to spend at Ruche from a belt that I returned last autumn, and I have been itching to spend it on something for myself for my birthday.

I see myself wearing this skirt with everything. From vintage blouses to camisoles to my rarely-donned collection of band t-shirts, this skirt would not suffer from neglect. The light color makes it ideal to wear with black tops, and I have so many black band t-shirts that I seldom wear because all of my denim is too dark or the art gets covered beneath a high-waist skirt. And imagine how well this skirt would work with tights of all colors, too! Oh dear, oh dear.

No outfit today, dear reader. I must dip into Bleak House and finish A Mercy this evening/tomorrow morning, and because I indulged in a sit-down-at-a-restaurant-dinner after class this evening, I'm a little bit short on time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teaching-Story-Tuesday: in which I provide an alternate definition of "English Major"

I teach Rhetoric, which is a course required for all freshmen at the University of Iowa. The purpose of the course is to teach students how to analyze, map, and make an argument. The only real requirements for TAs are twofold: students must write two major papers and give two major speeches; instructors may not assign a novel. We can choose texts off of an approved list, and this semester I decided to teach Maus, the graphic novel depicting the Holocaust with cats and mice.

My students were not feelin' it. Each morning, getting discussion from them was like having to extract teeth. Finally, one young lady raised her hand and began: "Well, I might be reading too much into this, but..."

"Oh, pray do!" I exclaimed.

After she made her point, I addressed the class at large: "Look. It may be that you feel that your analyses are guilty of too much of a stretch, or that you are reading 'too much' into things. In fact, you might feel like an idea is so absurd that it is just straight-up bullshit. That's okay. When I was in college, someone once said to me, 'Oh, you're majoring in English? Isn't that just like majoring in bullshitting?' Well... alright. She had, possibly, a point. But let's be honest. How great a skill is it to be able to bullshit? It is universally helpful; I don't care what you're major is. If you say something potentially ridiculous, but can back it up with the text at hand, then that is legit. Call it bullshit if you'd like. But if that be the case, then, come on guys, let's come up with some more bullshit."

After that, discussion was much more free flowing. I'm not sure if I really got through to them, or if they were just amused that I said "bullshit" so many times in one monologue and felt like rewarding my effort.

Meanwhile, it has finally gotten warm enough to rain and not sleet/snow. Most of my compatriots are complaining about the combination of cold and wet, but when the ground is wet, there is drizzle in the air, and it is in the low 40s I am reminded so heavily of London that I can't complain. It is refreshing and nostalgic. And then I find myself listening to 808s and Heartbreaks at night while I blog. These things happen.

[blazer/coat: Gap, skirt: Anthropologie, dress-as-shirt: thrifted, cardigan: JCrew, necklace: via my Mum, belt: Ruche, leggings: American Apparel, boots: gifted Clarks]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Music Monday: in which I annotate to the tunes of Blackbird Blackbird

Raise your hand if you know what an annotated bibliography is.

For those of you who did not raise your hands, know that an annotated bibliography is a long list of sources that, besides bibliographic information for each (i.e. title, author, publisher, date, and place of publication, etc), one adds a lengthy couple of paragraphs detailing the argument and information found in the text and perhaps also its strenghs and weaknesses, and how it will or will not be useful to yourself.

I have to annotate 10 articles for my Victorian class by next Tuesday, and so I have been trying to read and annotate one article each day until then so that I am not overwhelmed by affect and Jane Eyre on the Sunday before. I'd like to make it to spring break without my brain exploding, thanks.

While I read articles, I have been experimenting with the 'right' kind of music for me to have playing in the background. I've been varying between a mix of jazz and swing with post-rock and mellow electronic-ish indie with subtle vocals. I'd like to share with you all one of my discoveries during this perusal: Blackbird Blackbird.

I really dig the way that their songs make me think of wistfully watching the waves crash against the shore from a chilly dock in Oregon or Maine in the late summer on a cloudy day.

[cardigan: vintage, dress: vintage, belt: vintage, tights: JCrew, boots: gifted

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Working Weekend: in which I sit at my desk

It might not seem like an earth-shattering idea, that I would sit at my desk. But to tell you the truth, I just don't sit there very often. I prefer to read in my squishy red armchair, and I've recently taken to typing on my yellow futon, lying oh-so-elegantly on my belly. But when I am dealing with a tome as heavy as Clarissa, it just seemed to be more physically feasible to use my desk space.

I really have nothing against my desk space. I like the objects I have surrounded the area with.

[Snoopy stuffed animal from my childhood; photo of my old dog Sadie Beagle and I circa 2004; Snoopy desk calendar from Hallmark]

[books for personal study; Diana special edition Colette from R for our anniversary; photo of R and I playing Scrabble this winter]

[vintage Snoopy lamp, anonymously delivered to my door after I accidentally shattered the old one]

[wooden yellow roses from Toad Suck Daze in Conway, AR 2008; vase handpainted lyrics to "Two of Us" by the Beatles from my mum]

[birthday card painted by my friend Mary for my 17th birthday]

My bulletin board:

[my friend Megz with her hard-earned Dramaturgy award; postcard of Edward Hopper painting "Automat"; photobooth strip of R and I from this winter]

[Peanuts comic from the paper, circa 2002]

There are only two real issues with the area. Firstly, the natural light from my two living room windows does not penetrate that corner very effectively. I prefer to sit in the sunlight, if possible. Secondly, my rolly-chair and the hardwood floor are constantly at odds with each other. If I move to cross, re-cross, or un-cross my legs, the chair goes sliding down the floor away from the desk. Obviously, such antics are not conducive to, say, highlighting in a large book, or typing on a laptop computer.

But, as previously mentioned, I decided to make use of my desk yesterday afternoon. I was in the process of completing a "too-close reading" of one aspect of Clarissa. A "too-close reading" is a notion invented by D.A. Miller in his analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's filma, in which he goes a little bit crazy in looking at the appearances of Hitchcock within his own Strangers on a Train and Rope. What is especially intriguing about Miller's analysis is that he is not that concerned with proving a larger point. He simply desires to investigate this little poignant detail, even at the risk of taking it too far. The journey for Miller is more valuable (in this case) than the end destination.

So, I chose to look closely at two instances in Clarissa where crying is either faked or hidden. Being a sentimental novel, there is an abundance of genuine tears--almost to the point of their being invisible. So, the moments of contrived tears, and of tears not on display, stood out to me.

I have drawn no conclusions.

I hope that's okay.

[shirt: Gap, old, jumper: thrifted, beret: Urban Outfitters, necklace: Ruche, gifted, tights: Sock Dreams]

Friday, February 24, 2012

in which I have a plan

Dear Faithful Readers (of which I believe I have about 3),

In order to give myself a little direction with regards to this blog, I have devised a new structure to lend to my posts. You might have noticed that I can't decide whether this is a fashion blog or a personal blog, and I have decided that it can be both. I want to try an experiment, where each day has a specific theme/topic/thing. Which will be as follows:

Music Monday:
Pretty self-evident. I'll post a song that I am currently diggin', or perhaps a sample of songs from a single album or artist.

Teaching Story Tuesday:
Teaching stories: I have them.

Wishlist Wednesday:
This is perhaps superficial. I'm okay with that. It just so happens that there are clothes and books and mostly clothes that I covet. On Wednesday I'll choose one or two items to gush over.

Time Travel Thursday:
In which I get in the TARDIS and go have tea with Charlotte Bronte and her ill father.*

Food Friday:
I cook a couple of large dishes each week and feed on the leftovers. I'll discuss one of the two recipes on Fridays.

Working Weekend:
I am a graduate student. And my blog will naturally reflect that. How can I not slip in musings on what I am working on? So, I devote 1-2 days to it--depending on my time.

The plan is to post outfit photos on some of these days, as time allows. But I have found it nice to do a bit of blogging during office hours. So let the new schedule commence this weekend. For now, have an outfit:

I was pretty excited about this dress back in January when I bought it from Modcloth during their ridiculous sale. So, I took about a dozen photos, all in very terrible lighting! The pattern makes me happy, and I'm excited to try it with every pair of colorful tights that I own before its gets too warm to wear tights any longer (that should be, what, early May?).

[dress:Modcloth, cardigan: Urban Outfitters, tights: Sock Dreams, boots: gifted]

*Not really. I still don't know what to do with Thursdays. Suggestions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

in which I try to figure out what to do about my office

Last semester, I had two officemates. This semester, they seem to both have disappeared. What does this mean? Well, I don't have to worry about either of their office hours overlapping with my own, resulting in a long line of students outside the door in the narrow hallway! I don't have to worry about playing my Mountain Goats pandora station quietly in the afternoon between classes, either. I don't have to be embarassed if someone enters unannounced and finds me looking at Facebook or fashion blogs. And--drumroll--I can decorate the space howsoever I please!

Let me tell you: it is not a pretty space to work with. The room is small and rectangular with brick walls that I wish I could term 'charming,' though they mostly make it look like a fortress. There are three desks, two with large desktop computers on top; in fact, the third desk is really just a table. There is a gigantic puke green metal bookcase, and three metal khaki-coloured filing cabinets about as tall as I am. Other offices have plump vintage orange and mustard armchairs, and hat racks, and windows. But not 410. Nope!

Little by little, I've been cleaning the office out. There were student folders collecting dust on the bookshelves, and I finally took the liberty of peeking into them. I'm glad that I did--some of them were from as far back as 2007! Into the recycling bin.

I'm thinking some garlands of paper leaves would not be amiss. Nor a Doctor Who poster that I found in one of the magazines I bought from the comic shop in the fall? That might be taking it a step too far. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I really don't spend a ton of time in my office, but I'd like to think that I would feel at home if I did. On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach from 9:30-10:20, have office hours from 10:30-12:00, and then don't have class again until 5:00--and then, it is in not in the English building but a couple of blocks north of it (and up a large hill to boot) in the Business building. I've been going home before my evening class, because the building is a straight shot from my apartment. However, I might find it profitable to stay in my office for four hours and get some work done on the office computer. I never will, though, if I don't feel comfortable in my dreary office.

Once it's nice outside I can't wait to start riding my bike again. But for now, it is still much too cold, windy, and wet. I think you should be able to get a glimpse of just how windy it is in the following outfit photos:

[cardigan: Gap, dress: thrifted, tights: Sock Dreams, boots: gifted Clark's, belt: thrifted, necklace: thrifted]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

in which I begin to dream of spring break

When I was in 4th grade, I was obsessed with the weather. I don't know if it was the timely release of the film Twister, or the fact that Austin experienced several severe thunderstorms that summer, or even a potential coverage of meteorology in my science class, but I was fixated on meteorology. I wanted to be a meteorologist. Terrified of lightning and tornadoes, I wanted to know all there was to know about them. Somewhere along the line I realized that one has to do math and science to be a weather girl, and that reading novels alone was not going to get me there, and I swapped my ambition to being a weather-woman for ambition to being an English teacher.

Yet I maintained a preoccupation with the weather, as anyone who has experienced a thunderstorm with me could tell you. I was probably the only person in Conway, Arkansas for four years who ever took tornado watches and warnings seriously. As you might imagine, my obsession has led me to a close acquaintance, if not an intimacy, with Weather.Com. I used to watch entire thunderstorms over 'live radar' for hours while distractedly writing essays in college. And since moving to Iowa, the '10 Day Forecast' has become both my enemy and my consolation in the wintertime.

For example, I can tell you that the high for the next 10 days is projected to be in the 40s! But, I can also tell you, that out of those 10 days, at least 3 of them have 60% or more chance of snow showers. Hurrah for warm weather (yeah--Texas gal moves to Iowa, and two years later, suddenly 43 degrees is WARM), but boo for even more slush and snow. It's mid-February. Shouldn't it be spring soon?

Well, no. Not here. Here, it is still wool-tights, wool-sweater, and it-is-much-too-cold-to-snap-outdoor-outfit-shots-but-here-is-one-anyway weather:

[beret: Urban Outfitters, sweater: Gap, blouse: vintage, skirt: Anthropologie, boots: LL Bean, locket: vintage, belt: Ruche, socks: Sock Dreams, tights: Sock Dreams]

But I recently saw a few of the photos that I have taken over spring break in Austin in the past. Let me share a couple:

As you can see, the amount of clothing is very little! Few (if any) layers! Sunshine! GREEN GRASS. I'll be spending spring break in Austin again this year. I leave on March 8th. That is in... 18 days. 2.5 weeks! In 2.5 weeks, then, is it safe to say that I will be in a place that exhibits SWIMSUIT WEATHER?!

It should be no wonder that I begin to dream of what I will do in these 2.5 weeks. I will wear dresses and skirts without needing to worry about the static that my wool tights create. Know why? I won't be wearing wool tights. I'll be able to hold hands with R in the open air, and not in his coat pocket! I'll be able to sit outside and read--possibly not even only for class!!--and watch the dogs go on walks. Because it will be warm enough for people to take their dogs on walks! Oh to be able to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall outside, rather than indoors! But perhaps it suits the dreary Victorian novel, to be read inside with a steaming mug of tea. In that case I'll definitely have to finish Bleak House before spring break.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

in which I continually have trouble with pancakes

The truth is that I didn't know how to cook anything besides bean and cheese nachos until I was about 20. (But boy could I make stellar bean and cheese nachos). But when I moved off campus in the second semester of my sophomore year and became a vegetarian, I started to branch out a bit. By which I mean that I started to make pasta with various sauteed vegetables and pesto. Not exactly a leap into gourmet cheffery. But I also began to try various pancake recipes.

Banana pancakes.
Apple cinnamon pancakes.
Oatmeal pecan pancakes.
Peanut butter oatmeal pancakes.
Pear pancakes.
Applesauce oatmeal pancakes.

This was nearly 4 years ago. And, 4 years ago, somehow, for whatever reason, the pancakes always--unfailingly--turned out to look rather gross. Truly sketchy pancakes. Sometimes, about 3/4 of the time, they still tasted fine. Once and a while they tasted really damn good. For the rest of my college career I would live off-campus and struggle with the art of making pancakes. I continued to have the same difficulties.

When I moved to Iowa, my mother graciously bestowed upon me a gift of her own old griddle from her unmarried days. I thought: YES! Finally! Making pancakes will become easier! Perhaps it has been the use of a skillet that has ruined my countless batches of breakfast attempts!

But, no. Last year I just about gave up making pancakes after the embarrassment of trying to make them appear appetizing to an overnight guest, only to realize that they were not even cooked through. R has always been a fan of the 'just add water' mixes from the grocery store, and so for the past year I have let him take charge of all pancake preparation. But after he moved to Austin, and I returned Iowa after my extended winter holiday, and realized I am dirt-poor... I decided that damn it, pancakes are very cheap to make, and on the weekends I deserve to linger over a cup of tea or coffee while I listen to NPR and make a breakfast more engaging than the pouring of milk over cereal.

So, today I tried to make applesauce oatmeal pancakes.

And? They looked pretty untasty.

And? Two of them weren't cooked all the way through.

And? By the time I was done cooking them all, they were almost all cold.

And? Now I just have more dishes to wash.

Anyone out there have any pancake tips? This is just getting ridiculous. But on the bright side, I did make an excellent cup of coffee this morning, and the sun is shining so delightfully into my living room. Today's task: a magazine review for my Victorian Lit class, in which I discuss three nineteenth-century periodicals on the subject of my choosing and any light which they might possibly shed on a reading of Jane Eyre. I chose to research madness. So, here I am, reading antiquated accounts of mental illness with my stuffed walrus Thurgood, listening to a nice mix of Junior Boys, Teen Daze, Mum, and Blackbird Blackbird... and, existing as a graduate student of nearly 24 years of age who cannot make pancakes.

Say hi to Neville, my plant.

[beret: Ragstock, shirt: American Apparel, skirt: thrifted, tights: Sock Dreams, necklace: thrifted, bracelets: hand-me-down]

Friday, February 17, 2012

in which I discuss my current Friday routine, and, Clarissa

You should know that for the past several weeks, I have been reading Clarissa in my Eighteenth-Century Literature class. Clarissa is, quite possibly the longest book in the English language, at about 1500 pages in length. To add to this length, I should tell you--and you will see in a photo later in the post--that the book is also abnormally tall. So when I tell you that it is 1500 pages in length, those are 1500 extraordinarily tall pages I'm referring to.

Clarissa is an epistolary novel (i.e. told exclusively in letters) that relates the (mis)adventures of Miss Clarissa Harlowe, a beautiful eighteen-year-old girl who, her entire life has been prematurely wise and the absolute paragon of virtue. She is an example to all the young women in her county, the pride of her parents and two unmarried uncles--and, after her grandfather dies and leaves her the bulk of his estate, the object of hateful envy for her elder brother an sister. A man by the name of Lovelace comes into the county and begins to pursue her. He has quite a history, and is thought generally to be a seductive rake of the worst caliber. When Clarissa's brother returns home and finds Lovelace paying compliments to her, he essentially goes ape-shit; they have a bit of a duel, where young Harlowe, fever-ridden, tries to fight Lovelace, but obviously is too sick to do so, and Lovelace generously spares him his life and mostly just wounds his pride.

But the entire Harlowe family is aghast, and Clarissa is forbidden from seeing Lovelace. She doesn't mind all that much. But then, out of fear of Lovelace's pursuance, and under tyrannous pressure from the envious brother, Clarissa's family begins to push a Mr. Solmes (odious man; think Mr. Collins) at her. She refuses to marry him. And for months a siege on Clarissa takes place in which she is confined to her bedroom and forbidden to come into the company of any of her family. She takes her meals alone in her room, and her servant is dismissed. The family begins to be so awful to her that she suddenly finds herself verily trapped--at which point Lovelace jumps in and offers her his protection. She is tempted to take his protection to avoid Solmes, but ultimately decides against it... however, when meeting Lovelace outside the garden to decline his offer once and for all, he TRICKS her and ABDUCTS her!

And so she is thought to have 'run off' with this vile rake, who proves himself to be even more vile than originally thought in all of his contrivances to get her completely into his power and submit herself to him. This means, bluntly speaking, that he attempts by mind games to get her into bed. But Clarissa, in all of her virtue, will not be taken in so easily. Unhappy girl! Villainous man! Oh, the melodrama! The sentiment! The addiction! --and yet, also: O, the speed at which I must read!

The book is highly sentimental and theatrical. And oh, how I love it. Though I do find that after reading it for hours upon hours on end (as I have done, every Friday), and having no human interaction to mediate the experience, I will myself speak in flowery 'old-fashioned' vernacular to R on the phone in the evening. I've less than 500 pages to go now, and have only two more class periods to read for. Then it's on to Tristram Shandy, a much shorter read. I'll have to then shake up my Fridady routine, for as it is I have spent the past 4 Fridays reading 200+ pages of Clarissa with Mondrian, my Squishable t-rex, and drinking copious amounts of tea.

And, let it be known, that I eat at least about 2 peanut butter and banana sandwiches a week.

[cardigan: JCrew, t-shirt: Oregon Coast Aquarium, cut off jeans: who knows, tights: Target]

Monday, February 13, 2012

in which I mostly just want to buy clothes from Ruche

I'm having a love affair with Ruche. I can't stop pinning items from the store onto my wishlist. I just feel like I need more blouse-type shirts... and, obviously, floral dresses. "Need." I can't afford avocados at Hyvee; how on earth am I supposed to have enough moneys for boutique clothing?

You might have noticed that I haven't posted to this blog in a couple of weeks.

This has nothing to do with clothes (rest assured, I have been getting dressed every day), but everything to do with graduate school. I won't tell you how much I've had to read and write, because that's not that interesting (unless you are curious, but, again, not too sure you would be). I WANT TO POST MORE, THOUGH. I have some posts saved onto my laptop. Expect some in the future. I'm going to try to make 'blogging time' about every other day. I can do that.

Ta ta for now.