Saturday, October 18, 2008

End of summer

To me, summer begins and ends with basil. Summer isn't really underway until I put the basil plants in the garden. They grow all summer, and fresh basil is in many of the dishes I cook throughout the summer. Every month or so, I do a big harvest and Q makes pesto. Then, in the fall, it starts to get cold, and I pull in the last of the basil for our final pesto session. That signals the end of the summer to me. Usually, it's in October, which is long past summer -- it's almost the middle of the fall semester, after all! But I can cling to my dreams of long summer days as long as there is basil in the garden. When I (reluctantly) admit that the basil season is over, I can no longer deny that summer is truly over. Sure, there are still tomatoes in the garden, but it's just not the same.

Today, we made the last of this year's pesto. Summer is officially over.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stripping for PETA

This is just gratuitous and inappropriate. I don't know what is more disturbing, the stripping itself, the fact that she's dressed like a schoolgirl, or the overly sexual narration. In response to protest letters, PETA justifies this by saying that their provocative actions (like naked marches) bring more attention to these important issues. They don't get the distinction between nudity and the stereotypic objectification going on in this striptease quiz (trust me, I have no problems with stripping, but this use of it is unnecessary and insulting). There is also an "end justifies the means" thread to their argument that I find very troubling.

I sent this quiz to a colleague in Women's Studies and her response was that sometimes it seems like we are "swimming backwards through thick sludge."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Backyard wildlife

I think it is so cute when our bunny stretches up on its hindlegs:

And here he brought a friend (Did you hear that?):

The birds love it when I put on the sprinkler, and they fluff out all their feathers (I'm huge):

Doesn't this cardinal just look fussy?

Summer bounty and a cooking frenzy

It's the bountiful harvest time! (Most of) Tuesday's garden harvest:
Four different types of tomatoes (and the Roma tomatoes haven't even ripened yet), two types of eggplant (the round orange ones with green stems look like tomatoes, but they are eggplant), golden raspberries, and one cucumber. I also picked blackberries, but gave them to our neighbors. But what to do with the rest? Well, I tried my hand at making homemade pizza for the first time. I've always been intimidated by making the crust, but Q swears it isn't hard, so I figured I'd give it a go. I made four small pizzas (California style), using a whole wheat crust. Two were eggplant (using the small purple eggplants), goat cheese, tomato sauce (homemade by Q two years ago), and mozzarella:

And two were fresh tomatoes (the three types of cherry tomatoes), fresh basil (from the garden, but not in the above picture), and fresh mozzarella:

They were both very good (I think the eggplant one came out especially well), so I count my first pizzas as a success. They take a long time to make, though, so I doubt this will be a regular activity. I also made a lemon-raspberry quickbread:

I haven't tried it yet, so I can't say whether it came out well or not. And I made another batch of blueberry muffins (probably the last blueberries from the farmer's market for the summer), and last night I made banana cupcakes. I'm planning a blackberry coffee cake, as well. I think I need more people to eat all this stuff! Lunch, anyone?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Resisting completion

I have always found it much easier to start projects than to finish them. New projects are exciting and full of possibilities. I can dream about what I could do and how it will look when it is finished. I get excited about the vision of the final product. I pull out materials, look at designs, consider alternatives. This part is fun and can last a long time. Then at some point I get inspired to start -- I cut into the fabric, I sew together some of the pieces. At some point the project stalls. Maybe I can't figure out one step of the instructions. Maybe I can't decide what color to use for the binding. Maybe I just get too busy with other things. Then the project may languish for months or years before I get back to it. At that point, the enthusiasm has faded; the bloom is off the rose. While I still have the vision for the project, there is less impetus to keep moving on it. I'll often put the project away and start something else. While I do occasionally come back to an old project and work on it, sometimes even finishing it, I have all-too-many incomplete projects (I hesitate to even call them works-in-progress) to testify to this pattern.

In the last few months, I've been trying to revisit old projects and complete them -- to clear the boards for the new academic year. The unfinished projects have started to feel like an albatross around my neck (and no, it doesn't come with wafers). Plus, I am sick of feeling guilty about the incomplete projects, and I want to be able to have something to show for the work I have done.

I've made some headway -- I finished two house-painting projects, and I'm pleased with how they came out. But I've also figured out one reason I resist finishing projects. When something is finished, its possibilities are complete. It is all it will ever be, for good or ill. And sometimes (many times?), it is for ill. I finished two skirts, and while they are well constructed, they just don't look good on me. My vision was not realized, and the work seems wasted. Frankly, it's disheartening and depressing. I would rather have the incomplete project, with its dream of beauty, than the completed object, with its flawed reality.

I guess I understand why someone might be a dreamer -- having your head in the clouds means you don't have to see the dirt you're kicking up behind you.

I know that I have to be prepared that some projects won't work out the way I thought. I know that everyone has a certain "crap quota" -- we need to make a lot of bad stuff to get to the good stuff. I know that I should see these as learning experiences and think about what I could do differently next time. I know that it doesn't mean that I'm incompetent. I know that (in theory) I can make things that do fulfill my vision and make my heart sing. I know.

But in the meantime, maybe I'll just dream up a new project and live in its possibilities. What's so great about finishing things, anyway? Shouldn't we just enjoy the journey? ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


When I was younger, I used to have nightmares of physical threat. I was chased, or menaced, or injured, or even killed. My nightmares these days involve being unable to complete a task. I am trying to do something, but I can't do it for one reason or another -- there are obstacles I can't overcome or other tasks intervene. I am striving and I just can't get to the goal. (Remember Giles' dream in the Buffy dream sequence, where he can't finish his song because he has to follow the electrical cord? I resonated to that.)

My classic nightmare now is teaching-related. Last night I dreamed that I was teaching my big intro psych class at Georgetown and couldn't get the Powerpoint file open. I was perpetually trying to take attendance (which I don't even do at GU), and music and video files kept spontaneously playing and distracting the students, no matter how many times I closed them. I was acutely aware of losing the class time and the attention of the students.

Why this theme? Is is the lack of completion, a failure to do what I'm trying to do, touching on issues of generativity? Or perhaps it is an attack on my competence, a failure of my abilities. It might even touch on broader fears of being unable to control my environment, a common fear. And of course, there is usually a frisson of public humiliation to add to the mix, although I don't feel that this is the main concern.

What are your main nightmares at this point in your life?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hummingbird sighting

When I went out to set up the sprinkler this morning, I saw a hummingbird in our yard. This is the first summer I've seen a hummingbird in our yard, and it's the second time I've seen one this summer, so maybe it is in residence somewhere close by. Yay! I love the diversity of birds in our yard -- cardinals, robins, mourning doves, finches, wrens, and grackles (I think?) are regulars, with bluejays and crows coming through on occasion. And what are the birds that make so much noise at night in this area? I don't know what species are nocturnal in this area.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fragments of my life

  • I finally finished painting the basement bathroom. It is a VERY BRIGHT orange color with yellow glaze ragged on over it (actually, ragged off). This room glows in the morning -- it looks like a light is on even when it is not. Q did a great job building a much nicer sump pump cover and moving the pvc pipe to give us room for shelves. I even painted the pvc pipe to match the walls, so it isn't so glaring. I got a little orange and yellow rag rug that matches the color scheme from Etsy. I even replaced the shower head, although we still need to find a suitable shower curtain. So that room is mostly done, and I keep going by to look at it -- it makes me smile.
  • The house is remarkably clean at the moment -- we had an out-of-town guest last weekend and I did a major housecleaning. I wonder how long it will last.
  • I am two weeks into teaching my five-week summer class. My second class got canceled, due to low enrollment, so I have more free time than I expected. This is a wonderful treat, and I am enjoying it.
  • I am beading the fringe on the black and silver bellydance belt that I have been hand beading for years. I enjoy this process, but it is very very SLOW. And when the belt is done, I still have to work on the bra and accessories.
  • Our summer pesto factory officially opened today. I did a major harvest of our basil plants, and Q made 9 batches of pesto. We haven't even finished last year's pesto, yet -- our freezer is full of pesto!
  • The garden is a jungle, as always -- the tomato plants are huge and entangled with the berry canes, and the front garden is in desperate need of weeding. I find it hard to work in the garden when I am constantly being attacked by hordes of mosquitoes. I have never found an insect repellent that really works, and I am unwilling to use insecticides in the garden. What I really want is a Rent-An-Insectivore service, where handlers bring in critters to eat the bugs. For mosquitoes, it would be trained bats, for ants it would be anteaters, for crickets you could have hedgehogs. The handlers would bring in as many insectivores as you need for as long as it takes to reduce the population to a reasonable level (keeping them in your yard in whatever way is cruelty-free and appropriate), and then they would go on to the next patron. Wouldn't that be an eco-friendly solution? And then I could venture out to pull the weeds and pick the tomatoes in relative peace.
  • I've been working on building some "greener" habits. I think I am a bit more mindful and aware of my choices, but I find that these habits often require a lot more time, and I'm not sure whether that is something I can reliably maintain when my workload is high. I'm figuring that anything I manage to do is better than nothing, so I just try to be cognizant of my choices.
  • Movies I have seen recently: Wall-E, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Notorious Bettie Page, Provoked
  • I taught a bellyrobics class (subbing for a friend), and it was more fun than I remembered. It made me think about trying for a regular dance teaching gig again, but I probably don't have enough space in my schedule.
  • I made a batch of orange muffins today from a new recipe, and I didn't care for them -- too much oil, I think. What do you do with something you cooked that came out badly (or at least, not to your taste)? Do I feed them to the birds, or anonymously fob them off on coworkers?
I now return you to your regularly scheduled activities.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Muffins and vampires

I have been on a muffin-baking kick recently -- I like muffins, and they are easy to make. They also freeze well, so I can keep them indefinitely (a quick microwave and they taste fresh from the oven). I've gotten most of the recipes from Google searching, and they have turned out well so far. I have made a couple of batches of strawberry muffins (very yummy way to use the strawberries from my garden, supplemented by some from the farmer's market), and tonight I made lemon-raspberry (used up some frozen raspberries) and lemon-blueberry (same recipe, just different fruit). Next up is maple muffins (in honor of our Canadian vacation) and orange muffins. Whee!

Today's puzzle: If a vampire sneezes, what comes out? Some of the vampire stories have vampires cry bloody tears and sweat blood, indicating that all of their bodily fluids become blood or some dilution thereof. But are vampires just a different physical being, a transformation of human species to vampire species, or are they magically re-animated walking corpses (or even demon-ridden as claimed in Buffy and Angel)? Do they actually digest and excrete, or are such physical considerations irrelevant?

What do you think?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Baby bunny

Just for faeriemage, here are some photos of our resident baby bunny. This first one is when it was very little (taken about a month ago).

These were taken today; note the yummy weeds in our lawn which we grow just for the bunnies. . .

In the middle of a hop . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

Silent auction

What did I do today? I took pictures and put them on Flickr. I am coordinating a Silent Auction to raise money for the Montgomery College Women's Studies Student Scholarship fund. The actual auction will be held on Wednesday morning, but I put up pictures of some of the items that will be auctioned. There are some great items in the auction -- if anyone wants to bid on the item, I'm happy to put in a proxy bid for you. Just email me to let me know.

I thought that ancientsong would like this piece.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The good and the bad

7 Things I'm Good At:
  • Finding information (ask me a question, any question . . .)
  • Teaching (leading discussion, lecturing, etc.)
  • Expressing affection (just ask Q)
  • Painting a room
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Basic sewing
  • Baking (except for bread)
7 Things I'm Bad At:
  • Making omelettes (truly bad breakfasts result)
  • Estimating how long it takes to complete a task
  • Remembering names
  • Making decisions rapidly (I'll get there eventually, but it's not fast)
  • Sitting quietly and doing nothing
  • Self-promotion
  • Representational drawing

Anyone else want to play? You get to brag and be humble all at once!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Candy creations

I like these funky marzipan creations that I saw on Craftzine. Check out Bobo and George the Dead Clown at the bottom of the gallery. Alas, the bakery is in Belgium, so I can't buy one for Q.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Craftzine blog links

I just found the Craftzine blog, and I'm enjoying the links they post. Some cool recent entries:

Use plastic bottles to create underwater sea creatures

Make edible googly eyes -- I love the creature they show in the picture.

They also linked to a Crafter's Manifesto, an effort by Ulla-Maaria Mutanen to figure out what is driving the popularity of craft. I think she makes some excellent points about how crafting creates a sense of satisfaction, communities of practice, experiences of play, etc. I may just need to print this one out to hang on my studio wall.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pay It Forward exchange

I've finally decided to participate in the Pay it Forward Exchange.

From Aurora at Foxy Art Studio:
It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. This exchange---which is going around the net craft blogs right now--- is based on the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return,---just passing the kindness on---with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness pass on their own act of kindness. Thus starts a "PIF"... which continues on...and on..and on... You all know I’m already a PIF type of person. So here’s how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 3 months) and that’s a promise! What YOU--the recipient--- have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog. To play, you MUST leave me your e-mail address or some way to contact you so I can send you your gift, and your blog URL. thanks!

So the first three people to reply will get a small handmade gift from me (type of gift and time of being sent TBD), but you have to promise to put the same promise on your own blog. Any takers?

Friday, January 4, 2008

On the margins of pop culture

I know that, in many ways, I'm shaped by my culture. I participate in its rituals. I embrace many of the core cultural values. I eat the native foods. But somehow, in the last few years, I've noticed that I live outside of mainstream popular culture -- or at least, on its margins. Every couple of weeks, something happens that reminds me of this fact: My students make some reference I don't understand, or I see the cover of a magazine at the checkout and don't recognize the names being bandied about. Of course, I interact with pop culture, but I do so very selectively, which means that I miss many of the widespread trends.

I've never seen an episode of American Idol, Project Runway, or the Sopranos. Heck, we don't even get cable, which is surely an anomaly in the U.S. at this point, and now I don't even watch regular broadcast TV except through DVDs.

I don't read "women's" magazines (except in waiting rooms, when I've forgotten a book). When I do flip through them, I feel as though I'm reading about a foreign culture -- who are these people who are supposedly famous? Do people really care about the latest fashions? And while we're on the subject of fashion, why do the models all look so unhappy? Is there some rule that fashion models are forbidden to smile? They all look serious, or empty, or angry -- what is the deal? Is it just that they're hungry?

I see relatively few movies. I joke with people when they ask me whether I've seen this or that movie that they should just assume I haven't seen it, since that is the most common answer. I do see movies, but just few of them, and often years after they were in theaters.

I don't follow the gossip news about celebrities, so unless the news hits NPR or the front page of the Washington Post, I'm usually clueless. It seems like many people have a better sense of what is going on in the life of celebrities than I do -- I did hear about what's-her-name's recent teen pregnancy, but I would have totally missed the story about Ellen Degeneres' dog except that it was on the NPR quiz show (and don't ask me the details, because I've already forgotten them).

And so on . . .

So does this make me an alien in my own land? How much of American culture is represented by this mainstream popular culture? Are most people participating in the pop culture, or is that just an over-generalization perpetuated by the media hype?