Friday, November 5

Middlemarch: Unhappy in Rome

After all my (absurd, given the age of novel) complaints about spoilers in Middlemarch, I hope it’s not too annoying for me to let you know that at a certain point in this novel, one of the characters has a chapter devoted to the growing unhappiness of her marriage. Honestly, this is no kind of spoiler because the fact that her marriage was going to be unhappy was known to everyone but her as soon as her romance began – her sister knew, the neighborhood gossips knew, the far superior alternate romantic option in the neighborhood knew, and the reader knew.

Unfortunately for her, she disregarded the opinion of the townspeople. And even more unfortunately, this chapter of marriage unhappiness takes place on her honeymoon, in Rome. By the way, we are back in the time when a honeymoon’s name was more justified; they are clearly on their love-cation for a month, if not more.

Wednesday, November 3

Dinner: Tabbouleh Salad & Homemade Falafel



There's an insane amount of parsley in the refrigerator, so much that finding juice feels like a nature expedition. The good thing is, I now know how to keep parsley -- and other herbs -- usable for more than four days. (Just put them standing up in a glass, with a little water on the bottom.) But that doesn't solve the problem of using four bunches of parsley. So I decided to make tabbouleh.

And then once that was done, it just seemed like making falafel was the next step. J made the falafel mix, and after a failed attempt at frying, we wound up baking them in the oven -- that was way easier, and I can only imagine healthier.

Recipes:
  • Falafel -- And more parsley in the falafel! We skipped the coriander, and if we made it again, I'd punch up the cumin a bit.
  • Tabbouleh -- I used less onion than the recipe. I'd never known that to "cook" bulghur, you just let it soak in cold water, but we did wind up soaking it for more than the hour and a half that the recipe says (but I also overcook pasta, so that might just be me).

Tuesday, November 2

A List: Pronunciation Trouble

These are words I know how to pronounce when I say them aloud, but I say (think?) them absolutely wrong in my head:

Sufjan (as in Stevens)
Jens (as in Lekman)
gauche
inchoate*

I know there are more that I'm forgetting. And probably another list could be made of words that I pronounce incorrectly both inside & outside of my head, like "paprika" for just one example.

*I heard someone say this word on NPR the other day and thought "Oh, of course that's how it's pronounced." But I've already forgotten the dulcet NPR-pronunciation. So I'm back to the inner-head pronunciation of in-chote, which can't possibly be correct.

Monday, November 1

Taking a Break -- Jonathan Dee's The Privileges

I took a break from Middlemarch to read The Privileges last week. It is surprisingly easy to put Middlemarch on hold -- not because I don't like it; I do -- but because it's long and while searching for the link in this post I came across spoilers. Can you still call them spoilers if they're about a several-hundred page book written centuries ago?

Anyway: The Privileges. I liked the beginning of this book best, a set piece about the marriage day of a golden couple. There are a lot of great parts to that section: a moment between mother and daughter where the "specialness" of the day is clearly different for the two characters does a nice job setting up the characters.

The rest of the book I liked less -- the characters (lack of) morality and values seemed dull, rather than shocking. That is perhaps intentional, and a reflection of the times, and crimes, we live in.

One part of the book reminded me of a scene in Mystic River (from the novel, but also in the movie). Cynthia hears about a wrongdoing of Adam's and, rather than displaying judgment, tells him she is proud to be married to him, and that, if I'm remembering right, that he is a "man amongst men." Replace names, the crime, and socioeconomic status, and the scene is precisely the same as a "stand by your man" scene in Mystic River.

Is it a flaw in these two women or in me that I can't imagine myself having that response? Is it a little too ridiculous for me to read this type of scene as being a male fantasy?

Sunday, October 10

"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James.
"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass, and it was all semicolons and parenthesis," said Mrs Cadwallader.
Middlemarch* zing! (I am reading Middlemarch, btw.)

*I am not reading this edition. I chose the one that had the largest font, and pages that weren't so thin they were see-through. Extra-heavy, but worth it. The cover to my edition -- which is maybe Canadian? -- looks like the cover to a book on learning photoshop for beginners. I'll take a picture later & show you, when I'm feeling less lazy.

Monday, September 27

You Can Be Unique, Too

This picture is from a display shelf in a Connecticut Home Goods. For awhile, I was really obsessed with this store. I had big plans to rent a car and drive out to the one branch currently in NYC ... deep in Staten Island.

This last visit might have killed the glow. Maybe it's the store, but it might be me: Just not ready to embrace my uniqueness.

Wednesday, September 1

Post-vacation dinnertime: a yellow heirloom tomato from last week's CSA haul, and red wax-covered cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, June 23

Marketing Honesty

The cat had a rough weekend, and J & I wound up at the local pet store in the five minutes before they closed. I could tell, because there was a guy pushing a giant red vacuum cleaner around the store, leaving dirt and hair behind him; I remember that type of ineffectual vacuuming from when I worked in retail.

The cone purchase for Vera had to be figured out quickly. But as a quick add-on, I bought her kitty toothpaste along with a special toothbrush. Looks like this:


I was impressed by the honesty in the packaging. Check out this zoomed-in picture of the cat on the front label:

That white cat is totally cursing you out for even considering brushing her teeth. She's a forewarning of how terrible it will be when I brush Vera's teeth.

Monday, June 21

Not First

This was linked to from everywhere today, but I didn't actually get a chance to read Errol Morris's "blogpost" until tonight, riding home on the B train. It's long, and footnoted (thus the quotation marks around blogpost), but worth a read. The part I liked the most builds off that old Rumsfeld quote about the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. (I should clarify, this is an extended quotation Errol Morris includes in his post; it's not him writing.)

If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody’s field of ignorance.

...

Gummy Bears in Russian

We went to Brighton Beach this weekend and bought snacks.

Tuesday, June 8

Vera Gets a Haircut

Can you feel Vera's misery in this picture? I've never seen her sleep with a paw over her face, just totally resigned to muggy, miserable, unrelenting heat.

So we gave her a haircut! Vera almost purred louder than the buzzing clippers, until she got sick of it all, and cried and squirmed her way out of the bathroom.

April Books

Time to turn to cliches: Better late than never!
  • A Happy Marriage* - Rafael Yglesias - library - My expectations for this book might have been a bit (too) high given how much I'd read about it on blogs. The first part of the book was amazing although difficult to read on the train: it reveals the lovableness of a major character (through the eyes of her husband, falling in love with her as a young man) and her eventual death (through the eyes of her husband, 30 years into their marriage). Other parts of the book felt cheesy to me, and some sections--graphically about her cancer--are excruciating to read.
  • The Kids Are All Right - multiple authors - nonfiction - One of my favorite coworkers lent me this book -- a hardcover -- so she must really trust me. The second book I've read this year that takes place in a friend's town, so I kept picturing her in place of the people in the book.
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson - library - No question, my favorite book that I've read so far this year. Subtle, funny, sad, and meaningful. Also, I like reading books that take place in the UK that have American characters running around, being gauche & missing all the subtleties.
  • Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby -- library - A quick read. What I liked most about this book was the descriptions of the depressed town where the main character lived. At points, I might have accidentally sympathized with the antagonist, an obsessive fellow who totally miscalls the value of a recording from a cult artist.

*It's possible I read this in March? Being organized is hard!

Friday, May 21

Tips for Baking a Cake

The below tips were (sadly) learned from experience. Pretty sure I did nearly all of these things wrong on my first attempt at baking a birthday cake. 

1. Cream the butter alone. Then add the sugar and cream together. This is a genius tip from my mom that makes a big difference. And, also: cream the butter and sugar together until there is no gritty feeling remaining. That's harder than it sounds; even with a hand-held mixer, a person can get bored of mixing.

2. Add the eggs to the creamed butter & sugar one at a time. For maximum aeration!

3. Don't overbeat. Once you're at the stage of mixing the dry ingredients & milk into the butter/sugar/egg mix, mix ingredients just enough to incorporate. 

4. When you're alternating dry ingredients and milk, end with the milk as your last step.  I assume this means start with the dry ingredients. 


5. Prepare your pans correctly. The parchment paper? It's worth it. The butter? Use as much as you can. And then more.

Tuesday, May 18

Bike & Bread

Spotted on West 15th Street, walking crosstown in the rain.

Tuesday, April 27

I Know: Other People’s Dreams Are Boring

I had the greatest NYC dream the other night. Much, much better than my recurring dream where I find a new, previously unknown room in my apartment – I have that real estate dream all the time, and I know other people who do, too. That’s a great dream, right until you wake up.

No, in this dream, I was in a cab. And even though the cab driver asked for directions, I played with my phone instead. So far, so realistic. The cab made it onto my block – maybe even my own corner – so I felt done with the direction-giving and fell asleep in the backseat. When I woke up, we were on a wide deserted 4-lane highway, no longer in the city. “Where are we?” I groggily asked the cab driver & J, who’d joined us in the cab through dream magic.

And then I realized we were in Far Rockaway, because I’d told my driver to drive straight, and -- dream logic! -- if you do that, you’ll wind up in Far Rockaway. The road we were on stretched to the infinity point where shore meets sky. It was a road to nowhere; there was no land on any side of our taxi.

Because of global warming, the water was particularly high, and waves arched over, and crashed into, the highway like dissolving rainbows. It was beautiful. I had this overwhelming feeling that the three of us: me, J, and the cabbie, could stay there forever, watching the waves crash onto the highway.

I’m just realizing that in this dream, instead of finding a new room, I found a new part of NYC. Because although in my dream I was certain this was Far Rockaway, in reality, I've been there: this was no Far Rockaway. I sincerely hope this isn’t an accidentally revealing dream, inadvertently sharing you everything I wanted to keep secret about my inner-self. It was just the prettiest, most visually arresting dream I’ve ever had, and for weeks, I’ve been thinking about the road's lonely beauty.

Tuesday, April 20

Books I Read in February & March

UGH, I am so behind in my self-imposed task. It's almost May! Here's what (I think) I read -- it's a bit hard to remember, so, extra challenge.

This is list is somewhat in order of reading.
  • Misconception - Ryan Boudinot - library - to be fully honest, I took this book out of the library because of it's squarish shape, neither mass market or trade. I worried it might be too twee, or obnoxiously post-modern. But I mostly liked it! The book was about the flaws of memory, ownership of stories, and what happens when good intentions lead to tragic results. I'm linking to a negative review, but I liked it more than the reviewer did.
  • In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan - bought at Unnameable - I can't say that I found a lot new in this book, maybe because I've read Pollan a bunch in the NYT mag, or maybe because these messages about food are becoming more and more wide-spread. That's not to say it was bad.
  • The Scenic Route - Bonnie Kirshenbaum - bought somewhere? - Quirky. Funny. The (vegetarian!) narrator journeys with a lover throughout Europe (choosing destinations randomly) telling stories of the near and far past.
  • Motor Mouth - Janet Evanovich - library - I can't remember what this was about, only that I got the giggles toward the end of the book, and that I read on a cold Sunday, while J played video games.
  • Paper Towns - John Green - library - sometimes I shake things up, and read YA.
  • Mom Among the Liars - church book sale - I bought this mostly out of nostalgia. I'm pretty sure I read another book in this mystery series when I was in high school. And, the book was only 25 cents or something.
  • The Scarecrow - library - Michael Connelly - all I can remember is that something Law & Order: SVU-style gross happened to a female character. If I'd known, I wouldn't have read it.
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett - library - I raced through this book. It is, just like every review says, the perfect book club book. I found it problematic, but in interesting & well-intentioned ways. The dialect made me uncomfortable, particularly at the start of the book.
That's it!

Monday, February 15

Made By Madcat

Here's my teddy bear, stepping in to model this baby blanket, which is off in the mail tomorrow morning to my friends' newest family member. (Honestly, I could have sent this sooner ... but my lifelong ban on irons--and clothes that required ironing--finally caught up with me.)

Thursday, February 11

Truth in Advertising


spotted at the Key Food by my apartment

Friday, February 5

Books I Read in January

Before it's so late in the month that this becomes ridiculous, here are the books I read in January; there were three.
They are all mysteries, which seems a bit one-sided. The first two are about race, and racism, in America. This was not a planned thematic start to the year. It wasn't a perfect novel -- so much back story! some occasional clunky writing -- but I enjoyed Black Water Rising the most of these three books.

Thursday, January 28

Internet PSA

Be careful on the internet, guys, because things can go really really wrong, really easily. Like a few months ago, when I was looking into getting a record player. I started my search on ebay, of course, because whenever I buy things there they arrive at my office wrapped in tissue paper like a wonderful surprise present. I feel this way even though the things I buy are neither surprises nor presents.

Anyway, the prices were higher than I expected. Given that I had not-so-many (any?) records, I didn't really want to invest too much. But finally I found the world's most awesome deal. If all the other record players on ebay were say, 90 bucks, this one was 20. Extraordinary! Wonderful! I was just about to buy it when I thought about the shipping and handling. $3.95? That's less than I paid to ship a purse.

And that's when I realized I was about to buy a perfectly-to-scale, amazingly realistic, 4-inch square miniature record player.