Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sushi! etc

This whole home-cooked meals thing is pretty great, except I did have to skip a Thai food lunch excursion, and I had to avoid having a delicious hamburger and even more delicious fries at the Boone Saloon. That was the most difficult part, because I am such a sucker for french fries (even though I don't really like mashed potatoes or my father's hash browns). I actually think I could have french fries pretty much every day and never get tired of them, especially if the food group included sweet potato fries (I don't know if those are French, but whatever, they're good).

Anyway, on Thursday night I made a flank steak, marinaded in yummy stuff and with sauteed onion and mushrooms. I also roasted a sweet potato and had sauteed spinach doused in balsamic vinegar.It was pretty much delicious, especially the onions. Now I have lots of steak leftover, which will be perfect for sandwiches with crunchy lettuce and horseradish (I can't believe I ever hated horseradish).

Last night was definitely the highlight of my week. First of all, it snowed. It's still snowing, although no very much and it looks like the storm is pretty. But it was coming down quite nicely last night as I chopped everything to get it ready for sushi. I had the biggest smile of my life on my face. You see, I have a special smile that only appears when sushi is involved. I have another smile that isn't quite so special, but it comes around when snow is in the air. So you combine sushi and snow, and you get a very, very happy me. We went a little experimental with sushi last night. Usually I just do tuna, spicy tuna, and usually I'll have shrimp or squid or scallop to play around with. And that's all we had last night, but my friend made a great spicy mayonnaise with nyum nyuk (that's not what it's actually called; it's just what we call it). I tried my hand at coating the rolls in panko and frying them, which was quite successful, though the scallop/scallion roll I did that with needed more flavor (I didn't realize how low I was on wasabi, so my wasabi mayonnaise was pretty weak). We coated another roll in a panko/coconut mix, which was really nice. Then of course there were the traditional tuna and spice tuna rolls, with cucumber, scallions, and avocado. Add in some ginger and sake and soy sauce, and you've got one of the world's most perfect dinners!

Sushi for two:

Sorry the picture's blurry - too much wine? You see, this is a little known fact, but the proper way to do sushi during a snowstorm is to drink wine while you're making the rolls, and then switch to sake while you're eating them

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


What I really wanted was wine and cheese. Unfortunately, I only had an hold half bottle of red wine, and no cheese. So I investigated the pantry and decided to stick with the Mediterranean theme. I made pasta with a simple saute of olives, garlic, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onion, and a little butter and olive oil. I wasn't expecting deliciousness, but that's what I got. The first bite was this slippery amalgamation of texture and color - the inky dark olives, the bright red tomatoes, the pale artichoke hearts with their hint of purple at the stem. The slight chewiness of the tomatoes, the crunch of the pine nuts, the soft give of the pasta itself. Way better than wine and cheese. I like the steam from the pasta.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I just made a salad, but I'm not allowed to eat it yet. I will be fantasizing about it all morning, salivating through class. It's not the kind of salad I usually make - I'm usually a spinach, goat cheese, cucumber, apple, craisin, red pepper, bacon sort of salad girl. But today I went for a more Mediterranean flair: romaine lettuce (I think it's the first time I've ever bought romaine lettuce, but I wanted a little more crunch), artichoke hearts, banana peppers, kalamata olives, mushrooms, red onion, tomatoes, and topped off with feta cheese and a couple pepperoncini (what's the singular form of pepperoncini? pepperoncin? pepper? pepperoni?).

I'm breaking my fast two meals early. My fasting buddy and motivator dropped out after the first day (wimp!). And in the office yesterday everyone was eating pizza and sandwiches, and a salad that almost drove me insane. So I decided that I could quit early. Especially since I went to a bar last night and refrained from eating or drinking anything other than cranberry juice. I figure that was a pretty good test of my willpower, and I triumphed, even if I am failing in the long run. I think I've spent about seven hours in the past two days thinking specifically and very detailed-ly about food. Now, to be honest, that's probably not a whole lot more time than usual, but usually I can do something about it and eat. My point is, it was difficult and I'm food-obsessed. I guess that's two points. Anyway, I've got big, healthy (mostly - there might be some pizza in there, and It's pretty much impossible for me to eat less than half a pizza when we make one) food plans in the coming days, so I'll do my best to make everyone jealous of my eating.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fast Food

I'm sitting here watching the depressing rain, grading depressing GRE essays, and drinking non-depressing coffee. I'm not eating anything though. This morning marks day 1 of my three day fast. Coffee is allowed, because if I didn't have some part of my morning food ritual intact, I think I'd go crazy. Juice is also allowed, if I get super hungry or lethargic. I have fasted twice before, and both times it was much more of a psychological challenge than a physical one. Actually, I never even got hungry those times, which I think is pretty wierd. But it was hard not to eat. I normally spend about 70% of my free time thinking about food, and usually I can indulge in the food process - shopping, recipe browsing, cooking, eating. But for the next three days that process will be off limits, but the amount of time I spend thinking about food won't change. It probably doesn't help that I've spent an hour this morning searching for wholesale fish distributors, because I wouldn't mind having twenty pounds of sushi fish in my freezer. I guess I'm embarking on some psychological torture. Or a battle of wills - mine against mine. This fast isn't only about my willpower though. Grad school makes me unhealthy - the whole being in town all day isn't really condusive to healthy eating or home cooking. And I drink more beer. So this fast is also a way to kick-start my future of eating healthily.

Which brings me to the socond part of the week. Once I have successfully fasted for three days, I will eat only home-cooked meals for the rest of the week. This will probably entail cooking something Tuesday night, which is unfortunate because I won't be able to eat it until Wednesday; or I will get up ridiculously early to cook something to bring to school for lunch and dinner. Once I'm allowed to cook, I'll be posting pictures of my culinary deliciousness.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Day the Worms Came Out...

... in a non-sexual sense of course, because worms are asexual, so by nature they are sort of gay already.... Anyway, here's the beginning of it that I wrote a few months ago:

"When the rain started at midnight, people were awake. Later, many would place importance on the midnight hour, toss around words like “apocalypse” and “judgment.” Some lay in bed, eyes twitching restlessly behind closed lids, thoughts racing. Some were on couches. People were at desks, in showers, on toilets. Wherever they were, most were awake. Those few who were asleep twisted sheets around their bodies, pushed their lovers out of bed, sweated until their bodies shone. One man choked himself into unconsciousness. Several people died.

When the rain started at midnight, there was no subtlety. There was an oppressive silence, like a dense fog or cocoon, then there was that slow (or not so slow in this case) crescendo that sheeting rain makes. Then it began in earnest. A steady thrumming, a humming even, snaked its way through the city, like a current of electricity that you could almost hear. You felt it more than heard it, somewhere on the edge of your skull.

We who were awake thought, at first, that it was just a rain. And in a way, it was. The sky was dark with clouds, obscuring the stars and moon. Condensation gathered around particulate, grew, and fell. The ground became wet. After a few minutes, and this was the first indication that something might be different about this rain, the ground was saturated, and rivulets formed, soon turning into small streams in the gullies next to roads.

We turned on our computers and televisions to check the forecast. “Torrential downpour”; “Into the morning hours”; “Radar down.” They used different words, but they all said the same thing: it was a big fucking storm.

We went to bed though, eventually, because what else were we to do? Stay up all night, perched on the window seat, cracking the blinds every few minutes, stepping outside if you were brave? There were those who did that, but for the most part, we went to bed.

And when we reached for our wives and husbands, and lovers, and children, they reached out to us. “Where have you been?”

“It’s raining.”

“I know, I can feel it.” That’s what they said - “feel,” not “hear.” “But where have you been?” as if we’d been gone for ages, a pleading in their voices. And we turned to that pleading, and we embraced it, and kissed it, and touched it, and we returned it, and so it was a night of love.

Those who had been asleep though, for them it was the opposite. They awoke on the floor, or alone in the bed, or not at all.

It stopped the same way it started – suddenly. And the silence woke us, and our heads felt clear, and we parted the curtains and we saw the sun. We crawled back into bed, curled into our partners, stroked our children’s hair, let our dogs and cats into the bed with us. Maybe it was relief that the storm was over, or maybe we sensed an ending in the brightness.

So I've been muddling onwards, trying to figure out how to write an entire story with a "we" narrator. It doesn't help that I , as usual, don't have a plot, except that so far the entire city is overrun with worms, and they smell really, really bad. I sort of feel like I'm unconsciously imitating Jose Saramago, but since he is one of my favorite authors of all time, I suppose he's not a bad guy to imitate. And my sentences are a lot shorter. And I use punctuation. But tone-wise it's sort of evocative of "Blindness."

So the writing's been going pretty badly, as it usually does when I force it, but it's still going, which is better than not going, because I can always go back and make it better (theoretically at least). The salmon story is about a person (I haven't even figured out if it's a male or female) who sort of follows salmon around Alaska and maps their routes and has lots of very profound introspection and meets wierd Alaskan-type people. There will probably be a bagpiper.

In other news, I hate everything having to do with eletromagnetic radiation. But I've got some coffee, it is beautiful, though somewhat hampering in my plans today, outside, with the thick coating of ice and everything. So it's time to learn some formulas and do some math. I'm excited about next week, because it is going to be centered around food, my all time favorite thing!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 1, Week 3

I spent the better part of the day reading about mobility paradigms and remote sensing, and sticking address labels on postcards. After playing with the dogs for a bit, I decided there was nothing wrong with a glass of wine in front of a smoldering fire, and I remembered I was supposed to write. I glanced over my page of random ideas, and wasn't struck by any of them. I didn't feel like revising, or working on something I'd already started. I needed something new.

I'm in my second semester of grad school for geography, and I'm still unsure whether I want to write a thesis or do an internship. They both have their benefits and un-benefits (yeah, I make up words sometimes. So what?). An internship might lead to a job, which is certainly a good thing, but it will also tie up my summer. A thesis would be pretty fun, but I don't have anything in mind that I'd like to spend that much time on, and it might not be as useful in the job realm, though it would allow summer vacations. Anyway, the point of this aside is that I've been on a geographically-related (thesis potential) title kick recently: "Roads to Nowhere: Emerging Traffics in Mobility Tourism," "Maps of Nowhere: Literary Mapping and Cartographic Cognition." So my title-generation has had a geographic bent, and I often start writing stories when a title pops into my head and I just have to see what comes next. So as I sat down with my wine and embers, "The Cartography of Bees" popped into my head. I like bees. I mean, I like the idea of bees, and I like honey, and I used to like bees before one sent me to the emergency room. I don't know anything about bees. And it sounded too much like "The Secret Life of Bees." So I ruminated. And drank. And listened to "The Script," one of my favorite new bands (new for me, not for them). And lo and behold, "The Cartography of Salmon" appeared. Great! I like salmon. To eat. To catch, theoretically, though I never have. To watch as they struggle against the current. I don't know anything about salmon, but I'm not going to die from contact with one. And they migrate. And struggle. They're very metaphorical. And I've yet to write anything satisfactory about Alaska. Salmon live in Alaska. And salmon are animals, so they fit into my current animalistic writing theme. Here's what I wrote in the first couple minutes (hopefully there is more to come, though I certainly will not bore you with it):

It used to be the West, this mythical place where you could lose yourself, or find yourself, start a new life, end an old one, discover something of the world that was missing where you came from. But as we moved West, as we settled the frontier, those mythical places became actual mythologies, woven into legends and tales told in crowded bars and nightclubs, around dinner tables, spread across the globe in movies and books. The West became the norm.

And the North became the West. The land of mountains and rivers and dancing lights, where men were still dependent on their aim with a rifle, their skill with a boat, the natural cycles of the earth. I didn’t come to Alaska for any of that. I came because I had a car full of life and I didn’t stay anywhere else along the way. It wasn’t a decision so much as a lack of one. Suddenly I was there, reading that “Welcome to Alaska” sign against a backdrop of evergreens. I realized I was going to run out of road, and I either needed to stay or turn around.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie Bust

So the whole classic movie thing turned out to be kind of a bust. Between school starting and various other very time-consuming things, I just didn't have time to watch movies. Also, apparently as soon as I'm in school, whether I'm using my brain or not (and you know not a whole lot of brain use ever goes on with me, much less the first week of school), all my powers of concentration instantly turn to mush. It's difficult for me to sit through two hours of any movie, and ones that require even the slightest iota of thought become almost impossible. During the semester, I tend to stick to such classics as "Mean Girls," "French Kiss," "Bring it On," and other such cinematic luminaries. So "The Seventh Seal" was the only one I got through.

However, with a stomach full of sushi and sake, and a clean bathroom (yes, I have extremely stimulating Saturday nights), I am prepared to take on week 3: writing. Every day. Fiction. Make believe. Imagination. I've written about three pages since I started grad school, and that makes me very unhappy. I've got all these great stories-in-progress, and more titles that just need stories to go along with them. I'm even developing a theme for a short story collection. "The Heaviest Pig in the World." "The Day the Worms Came Out." "The Town that Hanged an Elephant." "The Miracle of the Pigoon." Animals, folks. I'm writing about animals. A pigoon, for those of you who don't know, is a cross between a pig and a baboon. So the goal is to write every day. Maybe I'll only get a paragraph. Maybe I'll get five pages. But I'll do something that I theoretically love, and I will have a huge sense of accomplishment, whether it's one sentence or one hundred. And I can write whether my car is free from my driveway or not, whether I'm on campus for twelve hours a day or at home, whether my hearing has returned or not. I'll hopefully update this more often than last week, because hopefully this week will be successful. And I've got big plans for next next week. I'll have to figure out how to post pictures. That's all I'll say for now. But it's going to be good.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seventh Seal and Dog

So, today was pretty much a terrible day. Sheik, the lovely, dopey, goofy, cross-eyed, sweet dog I got in Alaska and later gave to my parents, was diagnosed with leukemia about a week before Christmas. The past few days he needed to be carried up and down stairs, and pooping took enough energy that he just fell over into the snow afterwards. So today my parents took him to the vet and had him put to sleep. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time crying and cuddling with my two dogs who are thankfully in good health (except for the mysterious oozing wound on Puck's back). The good news is, I made a delicious risotto with shrimp and leeks and spinach, drank too much wine, and had s'mores for dessert. I also watched the Seventh Seal.

I first became interested in this film over ten years ago, after reading "The Second Greatest Story Ever Told" by Gorman Bechard. I loved that book as a teenager. It's about the daughter of God, and it's basically about how cool liberals are and how Christianity has completely skewed the word of God, and how everybody should just be nice to each other, which is pretty much how I feel about things. The Seventh Seal features prominently in that book (I think. There is a slight probability I am confusing this book with a different one, but I'm 99% percent sure I'm right. A brief internet search neither verified nor proved me wrong), but for some reason I never got around to watching it. So tonight I changed that.

For some reason I always imagined the film as Japanese, but it's quite Scandinavian. I have no idea where I got that Japanese perception from. In general, it was pretty different than what I expected. I thought it would be more overtly philosophical, that there would be more conversations with death over a chess board. But it actually told a story (of sorts), following the main characters, and having others join them in their journey. There were several funny moments and memorable lines. It didn't make me think as deeply as I was expected, which in my current state of mind is probably a good thing. But, it expressed the absurdity of life, the certainty of death, and the futility of zealotry. It also recommends killing your women while the relationship is still fun, in order to avoid all the crap that will inevitably come. So, if you're looking for all that, I'd recommend giving The Seventh Seal a whirl. It was a far cry from what I expected, but in a good way.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


So, I wrote some letters. And I learned something. I learned that I'm not very good at writing letters. The problem is the need to fill up space. See, with email, a sentence or two is sufficient, and a couple paragraphs is long. But with letters, there is some sort of expectation. After all, nobody wants to get a letter that's only a few sentences. So as I struggled to fill the paper, I felt inadequate. There's just not a whole lot going on in my life. If I were writing to people I haven't spoken with in years, it might have been different. But I was writing to people I haven't spoken to in months maybe, but they still know where I live, and mostly what I'm doing. So it just seemed like there wasn't much to say. What I liked about the letter writing experience was the thought I put into it. I planned my words, my sentences, and I liked that feeling.

When I was fifteen or sixteen I spent a summer at a research station in southeastern Arizona. I mostly worked with my dad, catching spiders, weighing and measuring them, blowing air on them to see how far they'd run. I did have a few memorable days trying to capture lizards with tiny lassos, and I'm still baffled at how anybody is able to do that (I eventually was given the task of clipping their toes because my lassoing skills were soon shown to be non-existent). I also spent some time slogging through puddles of water and cow shit to catch toads, and one afternoon coercing a rattlesnake into a pillowcase in the middle of a road. I also played a lot of ultimate frisbee, and had my first alcohol-induced vomiting event. Anyway, the point of this is that it was before email, or at least before my email. The only way to keep in touch with people was with a pay phone and letters. My father had been going to this research station for several years, spending about half the summer there, and I always looked forward to his phone calls and his letters.

At this point in my life, I was great friends with a group of girls. We would spend hours on the phone, having three-way conversations. It was strange being separated from them for so long. So I wrote. I wrote what now seems like a ridiculously long letter, about five pages (how in the world could I fill five pages with information about spiders and toads??). But here's the thing. I lied. Oh, I told them the truth, talked about what I was doing, about how I would capture ants and then place them on spider webs, how I would put a spider in the deep freeze and then quickly take measurements before it thawed, about the cute college boys who were there, and the fifty-ish professor I kind of had a crush on (a precursor to my adult dating life...). And I spent pages talking about this one guy, and how we really hit it off, and how one night, after a few beers, we ended up having sex. Yes, I lost my virginity out in the Arizona desert. But then at the very end of the letter, pages later, I revealed how my hymen was intact, and it was all a lie.

Maybe if I wrote letters like that it would be more fun. I'd certainly have more to talk about. But for now, since lying about my deflowering seems a little late, I apparently don't have much to say. I think I'll mostly stick to emails that can be short and imprecise.

This upcoming week, I have classic movies to look forward to. My car is still stuck in my driveway until we get some warmer temperatures, which hampers many of my goals. And I am still in sickness recovery mode, which hampers more of my goals. So movies it is. I am constrained by whatever is available on Netflix. Luckily, I haven't actually seen many of the so-called classics, so I should be able to come up with a few movies to watch. I'll be posting reviews and deep thoughts (or shallow ones) in the coming days.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Week One

It's a new year. I'm ringing it in in style - cheap wine, When Harry Met Sally, dog cuddling, flu recovery, and a new blog. I don't know how long this blog will last, or how consistent I'll be, but I'm going to try. See, I've been thinking recently that I need to liven things up around here. Not that my life is boring, or that I don't enjoy it; on the contrary: I have a great life, and I love it just the way it is. But what if it were different? What if I'd been born in a different country? What if I'd become an architect? What if I'd grown up poor? What if I lived in New York City? These are things primarily out of my control, but there are things I could change, and that's what this blog is about.

I want to try new things, some of them little, some of them bigger. But I don't necessarily want to make any huge life changes. As I said, I'm happy the way things are. But I'm also a firm believer in getting the most out of living as possible, and I know I'm not doing that. So to make strides towards that end, I want to try things, just one week at a time. I've got some ideas: hiking every day for a week, writing letters (with pen and paper!), being a teetotaler, being a drunk, writing every day, picking up roadside trash, watching classic movies I've never seen, reading non-fiction, eating only local food, not eating any sugar, talking to strangers at bars, telling loved ones how much I appreciate them, not using a telephone... I could go on and on, which is a good thing, since theoretically I want to do this for a year, so I need fifty-two ideas.

Ideally, this blog will be a place in which I record my experiences and reactions to those experiences. It may be quite boring; after all, how exciting can being sugar-free for a week be? But hopefully I'll be able to explain the reasons behind each of my choices, and how the week affected me, or didn't, as the case may be. So, since I am still in recovery mode (I got sick on Christmas Eve (the second sickness in as many weeks) and still have a phlegmy cough, congested ears which give me fuzzy hearing, and I blow a lot of snot out of my nose), I thought that this first week should be something physically easy: writing letters!

I sort of hate technology. I actually just got a new cell phone today, and I'm pretty bummed about it, but the one I've had for the past five and a half years stopped dialing the number 8, so a new one seemed necessary. Though I'm quite shy, and mostly think people are stupid and annoying, I hate how technology makes it so easy to avoid human interaction. Of course, I love email. I use it all the time. I keep in touch with people I normally wouldn't keep in touch with, I can communicate quickly with people, and I basically save a lot of time with it. However, I mourn the loss of letter writing. Taking the time to actually think about your thoughts, to write with deliberation, to imagine the letter traveling across the country or world, waiting eagerly for a response that may or may not come.... So I am going to search through my address book, find some people I have been out of touch with, and take one of my fun-colored pens to paper, and write a good old-fashioned letter.

I'm just trying this out, and hopefully I'll stick to it, but I've been known to give up on things, so we'll see how it goes. One week seems doable though, for almost anything. And maybe you'll get a little insight into my soul (if you want it, of course; if not, maybe you'll get a little dose of humor... maybe; I'll do my best with the humor thing).