Friday, March 30, 2012

Themeless Thursday on Friday: in which I play catch-up

What an odd week. Without excuse, I offer in one post

Music Monday: Bob Dylan and spring

When I was in high school, I had a bit of a mania for mix CDs. Part of the reason for this was likely the fact that I had either a 45 minute to one-hour bus ride or car drive to and from school each day, and felt the need for music to suit my specific moods that I might enjoy the pleasure of utter absorption. I had mix CDs for every mood, every weather condition, every time of day. I had mix CDs for the windows being down, the windows being up; driving on the highway, driving through neighborhoods, not-quite-being-able-to-drive in traffic.

I mention this because this past weekend I believe I invented a new category. “Songs for Spring Evenings when the Windows are Open and I Sit in the Living Room, Able to Feel a Determined Breeze.” As it turned out, a large percentage of the playlist was made up of Bob Dylan songs.

I feel like so many people who like Bob Dylan are really into Bob Dylan. I’m not one of those people. I couldn’t tell you the names of almost any of his albums, or describe to you any of the phases that his music has gone through. But I do like Bob Dylan. Here are a few of the songs by Bob Dylan that found their way onto my narrowly-defined playlist:

bob d by Laur on Grooveshark

Teaching Story Tuesday: absences

I had a student who was mysteriously ill every week. She missed more class than she attended. But she always had a doctor’s note to explain why she had missed 7 days of class at a time, so the absences were technically excused. She emailed informal assignments to me, and was very diligent in her inquiries regarding what she had missed.

My question was going to be how on earth I could grade someone who was never in class—but was always excused—with regards to participation? She hadn’t been in class for two weeks before we started doing speeches last week, and she continuously emailed me with requests to change the date of her speech. I didn’t know when I should start subtracting points from her grade for lateness.

But, just after I emailed my teaching advisor with these questions, I sent a mass email to my class about homework. I noticed that 19 students had suddenly become 18. She must have dropped the class early this week and neglected to mention it.

Moral of the story: some problems solve themselves.

Wishlist Wednesday: shoes for summer

It has probably become apparent through my outfit photos that I wear cowboy boots about 95% of the time. I love my cowboy boots. I firmly believe that there is no outfit in my closet that my cowboy boots would not complement perfectly. The only problem with my cowboy boots is that they are quite warm—which is only a problem for a few months out of the year, admittedly. I can wear these boots in the snow, but woe to me when I wear them in 95-degree heat and 90% humidity in the Iowa summer.
This summer, I will probably be in Austin for three months. Forget 95 degrees. Now imagine 110 degrees. I simply cannot wear cowboy boots this summer.

I am on a quest for summer shoes. I have one pair of cheap light brown Oxfords from Urban Outfitters that are falling apart on the inside, and one pair of brown basket-weaved flats from my mother’s closet that are also falling apart (and squeak obnoxiously each time I take a step). Something must be done.

These mustard sandals are $54.99 from ModCloth. When I get paid for April, I might have to invest. Mustard goes with everything, and if I can have at least one pair of shoes to share the burden of warmer weather with my failing Oxfords, that would be a great deal helpful.

It is so bloody windy in Iowa in the spring. My poor potted plant does a swan dive off of my coffeetable almost every evening that I have the windows open. The wind is probably the main character in the following photos:

[cardigan: JCrew outlet, shirt: thrifted JCrew, skirt: American Apparel, belt:
JCrew, tights: JCrew, shoes: gifted Clark's, necklace: via my mum]

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Working Weekend: in which I average midterm grades

At this point in the semester, my students have done a myriad of informal assignments, written one paper, and given one speech. They still have one more paper and one more speech, both worth 20% of their grades—so, now would be the perfect time for them to really buckle down and try to improve, if they see the need to do so.

This is also the point in the semester at which I can’t help but wonder whether or not I am a “tough grader.” Do tough graders know they are tough graders? Do easy graders know they are easy graders? (Crazy people don't know they're crazy, right?)

I've graded 12 speeches. So far, not one student has received above an 88. Does that reflect on them, or on me? But no one has failed. No one failed the first paper. No one has received a grade lower than a 70 on any assignment. So... again, what does this say about me, if anything? I suppose if I weren't asking these questions, it would be impossible for me to be a good teacher. But how do I know if I am a (too) tough grader? Fellow TAs and instructors (surely at least one TA must read this blog), what say you? How do you know if you are too tough of a grader versus whether your students are just unspectacular?

And yet another leftover outfit from the cold weather... I promise, this week, warm weather photos will commence!

[sweater: JCrew, skirt: Megan Nielsen, tights: JCrew, socks: Sock Dreams, boots: hand-me-down, necklace: Ruche, belt: via my mum]

Friday, March 23, 2012

Food Friday: Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Walnut Sauce

Several years ago I received a special edition of Better Homes and Gardens for Christmas from my parents. This edition was composed entirely of recipes for and articles about Mexican food. From time to time I like to make a recipe out of it, though it can be difficult because many recipes call for dried chile peppers that I don’t have access to or—like all of the recipes for tamales—seem so time intensive that it just wouldn’t be sensible on a graduate student time-budget. But everything I have ever made from a recipe in this magazine has been delectable, and I doubt I will ever use a guacamole recipe other than the one I memorized out of it.
This week, feeling inspired by the onset of spring-like weather, I decided to make stuffed poblano peppers.

Delicious. The walnut sauce looks admittedly sketchy; however, despite an utterly unappetizing texture, it really does suit the pepper, and complement the raisins, sliced almonds, and small cubes of pear that I used in particular. I made three peppers in order to have a couple to reheat throughout the week, and I can thus say with some authority that they do make good leftovers. I used ground pork because it is cheaper than ground turkey, and I think that it was a good choice. The only change that I would make in the future is possibly to up the amount of ground cumin. I couldn’t really taste it.

A leftover outfit from that winter weather two weeks ago:

[shirt: thrifted, belt: Ruche, skirt: F21, tights: Sock Dreams socks: Target, boots: gifted]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Themeless Thursday: in which I return from an absence, photographs in hand

I have trouble—obviously—sticking scrupulously to a blogging schedule. It’s always something: my camera broke; I was out of town; I have been trying to get back into the swing of living alone. But, here I am! For a couple of days, my outfit photos are going to appear very odd given the current climate of Iowa City. I had a few days’ worth of photos stored on my memory card—from when it was still seasonably cold—and I’d hate to see those go to waste.
In the past two weeks, I have finished two different rolls of film. One roll was a disposable camera that I have had for about a year and a half. I bought it from an antique shop, curious of the effect that the long expired film would have on the photos. I took a succession of photos of some of my favorite places in Austin back in January 2011, and then throughout the subsequent year I took some pictures of R, as well as R and I together. I dropped this roll off at Hyvee. When I picked it up on Tuesday, the woman working at the counter apologized, saying that the photographs were free of charge because the worker had tried to process my roll of film on a broken machine. As a result, about a fifth of the photos did not turn out, and appear only as a glowing blur of brown. And about a third of the remaining photos are almost too dark to make out. The rest all look as though taken in sepia, with a strange laser-like red line through the middle:

from last week, at Town Lake

on my birthday last year, playing Scrabble and drinking a margarita

R on my birthday last year

Hut's Hamburgers: my favorite ATX burger joint

Quack's: one of my favorite coffeeshops

Mother's: a fabulous vegetarian restaurant (this photo is from 2011, but we got lunch here on my birthday last week)

The second roll of film is the first from my new Diana Colette from R. I went to a camera store downtown to have them help me get the roll out, because I could not tell whether the roll was finished or not. The counter had long ceased to reflect the actual amount of exposures, and was counting backwards rather than forward, so I asked them to rewind the roll for me in order to avoid taking photos over photos that had already been taken (if that is possible). In addition, I discovered online that I might have been taking all of the photos wrong! Apparently, using the 35mm back to the camera, I ought to have been compensating for a disparate ratio regarding distance from the subject and the appearance of the subject through the lens.

Well, true enough. Most of the photos are iffy. Subjects are too close, and lighting is poor in almost every photo that I took indoors. I will try to scan a few examples next week or over the weekend.

In conclusion? I don’t have that many photos from my spring break. I used R’s digital camera a very little bit, but I do not have those photos yet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

in which it is spring break, and I turn 24

Confession: I meant to have regular updates over spring break, but just before I left Iowa City, my digital camera fell off of a rock onto another rock and the lens broke! So, I have been using my Diana this past week to take photos of my life. And, I have not taken an outfit photo in 7 days.

But, my parents bought my a new camera for my birthday! So, when I return to Iowa and put a memory card in my new camera, I can return to regular blog posts. Meanwhile, I've been working towards a paper topic regarding Jean Rhys's short fiction, researching 19th century ghost sightings in periodicals, and trying to soak up as much sunlight as I can here in Austin. R and I have kept busy with our Bones watching at night, and our Scrabble games in the afternoon!

Today's my birthday! R is taking my out to lunch when he gets off of work early today. I'm 24 years old today. I'm not sure what that really means, because I still can't rent a car at most establishments. But, hey, 23 was a decent age. Here's to hoping 24 is even better!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday: in which I want a Peanuts puzzle to frame

Every few weeks or so, I do a search on Etsy for vintage Snoopy items. People often sell old Peanuts books, or Hallmark Snoopy figurines. However, there are sometimes some real gems--for example, my Snoopy wallet is from an Etsy shop originally. This weekend I performed this search and came upon this fantastic Peanuts puzzle:

I love Snoopy. And I love London. Snoopy in London? I'm not sure there are words to descrbe how happy that combination makes me.

When I was growing up, my mum used to like to put puzzles together and then frame them, putting them up on the wall to display as art. I'm rather hooked on the idea of framing this puzzle and placing it up on the wall of my living room! It is $11, with free shipping, at The Junk Drawer on Etsy. What do y'all think? Worth it?

[dress: a shop in Brussels, blazer: vintage, tights: Sock Dreams, boots: gifted, necklace: thrifted]

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Teaching-Story Tuesday: in which I assign impromptu speeches

My students are either really shy or really sleepy. 9:30 does not seem particularly early to me, but they saunter into class and do not look at or speak to anyone. When we have class discussions, the same dutiful few participate until I just call on individuals point-blank. I've always been an eager class participant myself, so it's just kind of agonizing to watch.

I can't help but wonder, then, how they will survive their speeches. Each student will have to go up to the front of the class, and talk, intelligently, for 5 whole minutes. Most of of them won't even talk, whether intelligently or not, amongst the class, for five whole seconds.

So I decided to warm them up by doing impromptu speeches today. I wrote down topics on little sheets of paper and had them pull one out of an empty Twinings box. Each student had to speak for 1-3 minutes.

I think of this as a nice way to break the ice, and just ease them into speaking at the front of the class solo. The topics are never terribly serious. I offer subjects such as "your favorite film," "tell us about your outfit," "if you had to eat one thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?" "your dream job," "your least favorite subject in high school," etc. They have an easier time talking about these things than the types of topics I prescribed last semester ("squash" "postcards" "time travel" "shoelaces").

Do y'all have any suggestions for possible impromptu speech topics that I could use the future?

[cardigan: JCrew, dress: thrifted, belt: thrifted, necklace: thrifted, tights: Sock Dreams, boots: gifted]

Monday, March 05, 2012

Music Monday: in which winter is not over in Iowa

This weekend I went to the grocery store in the morning. It was sunny, if a bit cold. After I came home, I brewed some tea and set to work on more annotations. Around 12:30 I entered the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. To my utter shock, I saw that it had begun to snow in what I can only describe as a rather frenzied manner. And it continued to do so... all day. Into the afternoon and into the evening and into the night: snow snow snow. White fluff falling from the sky, obscuring my view of the parking lot outside my living room windows.

I lit every candle in my apartment, pulled Mondrian my Squishable T-Rex close, and lost myself in gloomy criticism on the Gothic. To what tunes, you might ask?

Kate Bush recently released an album called "50 Words for Snow." How fortuitous, right? But as a true lit nerd, I have loved the song "Wuthering Heights" for years! And Kate Bush along with it. Her dream-like tracks are too perfect for a world made blank by a surprise snowstorm. On Saturday night I put "Snowed in at Wheeler Street" on repeat and listened to it in my bedroom after midnight in the dark. There's something almost haunting about it. And I mean that in the best way.

[sweater: Coldwater Creek, dress: vintage, thigh-high socks: Sock Dreams, shoes: via my mum, belt: thrifted]

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Workin' Weekend: on becoming an expert

Scholarly friends, I have an important question for you in this post regarding memory. It has occurred to me that as I compile this annotated bibliography, I am simply full of critical opinions regarding The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I can remember the arguments the articles make, and some of the finer points of evidence. Hurrah! I am an informed scholar and can chatter about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall all the livelong day.

But of course, I should not like to spout these critical opinions as if they were my own, because, as I tell my students, that would be ILLEGAL. Plagairism, in fact. (That word always looks like I am spelling it wrong). Yet, here's the thing. As easy a time that I have remembering these sometimes complex and sometimes not-so-complex arguments, I cannot ever remember the critic who espouses them. (Sad, right? This sure bodes well for my future career. I will write numerous articles, and no one will ever know my name...)

So, scholars, do you have any tips for remembering the authors of articles and nonfiction books?

Meanwhile, I am creeping through Bleak House. I haven't decided whether I like it or not, though I have to admit that Charles Dickens really overdoes the satire. It has stopped being funny. Now it's just annoying.

It's been quite windy here in Iowa City for the past week. Luckily, because it is still cold enough to wear tights and leggings, I have not flashed anybody. But don't worry, come spring there will be an inevitable embarassing I-just-flashed-some-people post.

[beret: Urban Outfitters, dress: thrifted vintage, sweater: JCrew, leggings: American Apparel, boots: gifted Clark's, belt: Ruche, necklace: via my mum]
[Belated] Food Friday: in which I make good 'ol sloppy joes

Oh man. Whoever invented the sloppy joe was really onto something. You just get a bunch of random ingredients, saute them together, toss 'em on a burger bun, and consume! I say "random" because I have seen so many variations of the sloppy joe (including a vegetarian "unsloppy joe" that had kidney beans in it) that there is no way the original was anything other than "a pinch of this, a dash of that, and now toss in all the leftover ground beef." Nothing wrong with that.

There are two sloppy joes that really stand out in my memory. One is the sloppy joe recipe I am going to share with you in this post. The other is the sloppy joe that I helped to make and eat in London with ladies Meghan and Julia. The recipe was from Julia's family.

Now LOOK at the size of those sloppy joes! I have no recollection of having been able to eat one without its spilling all over my face, but am assured that it did happen.

So, it is no wonder that I was under the impression that sloppy joes were RATHER LARGE. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you will be unsurprised to learn that the size of a sloppy joe is entirely dependent on the size of your burger bun. So, you can opt for GIGANTIC burger bun or, like I did this past week, for the whole wheat (on sale) Sara Lee TINY burger bun. It's up to you.

Don't be dumb like me, though, and forget to stir the simmering ingredients. Because then the bottom layer will burn. Luckily, the burnt layer was still fairly moist and tasty the on the first day--but, leftover burnt layer is starting to really, really, really be dried out. Because the burger buns are so tiny, I had been heating up a side dish of macaroni and cheese, or caesar salad, to go with the sloppy joe. Voila. American classic.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Themeless Thursday: in which I borrow a meme/survey/thing

I saw this over at Orchid Grey, and remembered that I don't have a specific structure for Thursday blog posts at this time. I thought, why not?

11 Things [you may not know about me]

1. I don't wear make-up. This is partly because I am lazy.

2. I don't shave. This is entirely because it is a social construct, and I can't see why I would participate in one that I don't even have the slightest desire to.

3. I used to have hair long enough to sit on.

4. I have written fairly smutty fanfiction about the Trojan War.

5. My favorite book of all time is Mrs. Dalloway, but the book I have read cover-to-cover the most often is probably a novel called Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough about a pair of identical twins who go to college in Galway, Ireland. The narrator, Juliet, is convinced that her twin is more beautiful than she is--and falls in love with one of her English professors.

6. When I say the word "poem" aloud, it sounds like this: "Poym." A "pomme," after all, is an apple in French.

7. It is true that my dream wedding takes place in a library.

8. You might know what I used to collect Snoopy, and that although I don't have a specific Snoopy Collection these days, I still love Snoopy and have a tendency to look for vintage Snoopy things online. With me, Snoopy has always been a Big Deal. What you might not know is that in college I contemplated getting a Snoopy tattoo, but my roommate Hollis talked me out of it.

9. I love Wes Anderson movies. This began when my boyfriend when I was 14 gave me a copy of Rushmore for my half birthday. And although he admitted to having bought it for me just because Max reminded him of himself, and it therefore might only have been coincidental that I loved it, I have to say that it was a pretty good gift. Especially for a non-holiday.

10. I used to want to be a shark photographer until I became terrified of sharks.

11. In middle school I wanted to legally change my name to Rainy.

11 Questions...
1. If money, schooling or time was no obstacle, what career would you choose?
I'd probably open a used bookstore that had a mini coffeeshop attached to it.

2. What’s the one thing you look forward to every day?
Talking to R on the phone at night. Sometimes we talk for a little bit and then watch an episode of Bones together, and sometimes we talk for hours and don't get around to the Bones episode. Once a week or so I read a chapter aloud to him from The Three Musketeers.

3. What is your number one, all-time, favorite blog?
I do not have one. Although I do kind of get odd pleasure out of reading my old ones over, to see how I have changed.

4. Biggest online pet peeve?
The fact that I get sucked into the Internet and sometimes waste hours just... there. Not even aware of what I am doing.

5. What is your all-time favorite book?
As previously mentioned, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Honorable mentions include She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir, Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, Persuasion by Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

6. What would your “last meal” be?
Tex-Mex Feast. Chips with guacamole and legit chile con queso. Beef tacos with homemade tortillas, chicken enchiladas with verde sauce. And then, for dessert, a completely unrelated bowl of pistachio ice cream. And, to drink: limeade. Good, fresh, delicious limeade.

7. Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. In a very Elizabeth Bennett way, I refuse to think I could love someone without being fully acquainted with his character.

8. What would your ideal Sunday morning consist of?
Breakfast tacos with fresh flour tortillas, a bike ride to a park where lots of owners walk their dogs while I sit and read Victorian sensation novels on a bench and say hello to every basset hound who comes near.

9. Why do you blog?
I like to force myself to write outside of academia, but I also hope to have some kind of record of graduate school for myself in the future.

10. If you had to choose one color to wear forever, what would you pick?

11. What is your all-time favorite band?
In some ways this question is always unfair because it has to be The Beatles. But if we take The Beatles for granted, the answer is probably The Kings of Convenience or The Decemberists.