Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When it rains, bake!

It's been a gloomy week around here, full of raindrops and summer internship applications and bathrooms that need cleaning. E already has his summer work lined up (and some!), so now I just need to convince someone that I would be an awesome summer employee.

I did, however, want to recommend this amazing recipe for Oreo cheesecake cupcakes. I made them over the weekend (halved the recipe to get 12 cupcakes), and every one of them would be gone by now were it not for the fact that I decided to freeze half of them. My first venture into making [mini] cheesecake went very well!

Friday, March 26, 2010


It's been a rough week somehow, starting with the brutal snap back to reality Sunday night that signaled the end of E's and my spring breaks. I stayed up far too late doing schoolwork I put off all week in favor of sunshine and fancy home-cooked meals, and never seemed to recover. Of course, for the last 3 days I've gotten up in the way-too-early post-dawn haze to get to 2 different internships, which didn't help. And, to add insult to injury, when my alarm went off each morning, the cat was in mega-cuddle mode and E got to keep snoozing for at least another hour -- at least, when he wasn't complaining about my hair dryer waking him up.

But here we are on Friday afternoon! I am currently counting down the minutes until I can leave internship #2, which I just started yesterday. I'll be here a day and a half per week through May, and this one even pays a wee bit! The office has been in a crisis over issues not related to my arrival, though, so I have kind of been neglected. I haven't had much work to do, and yesterday I didn't find out where the restroom was until after 5 pm, when everyone was leaving! Luckily I have a bladder of steel. They have promised that next week things will be less crazy and they will have more time to devote to me, so I am holding out hope that this will be a valuable experience.

This weekend will involve sleeping til at least 8 am, going to the new laundromat that has free WiFi (I have been hoping for this magical combination of laundry facilities and interwebs for a very long time), and hopefully brunch at a Cuban restaurant we've wanted to try since we moved here. Really, though, I just want a Cuban sandwich. It's also the end (I think?) of the NCAA Basketball tournament, so I'll have many hours to do schoolwork while E is glued to the TV. Reading and papers and discussion questions, oh my!

Oh, and if you were wondering, I didn't make it out to see the elephants Monday night. The wind and rain were enough to keep me from making the trek. NEXT YEAR, THOUGH, NO MATTER WHAT, especially because I will know about it more than 12 hours in advance.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Elephants on Parade!

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, the CIRCUS is coming to New York City! And, since the train comes into Penn Station, which is, woefully, very underground, and since elephants and horses haven't mastered escalators yet, they're taking to the streets!  The train stops in Queens, they unload the elephants and horses, and then walk them through the midtown tunnel to 34th street, where they parade through the streets to Madison Square Garden!

I was gearing up to go, if not on the Manhattan side then the Queens side, but the wind/rain/lightning/thunder outside my window is intimidating me. Also, it happens at about 12:30 am and I'm not going to be able to convince E to go with me, because he has class early tomorrow, boo.  Maybe I'll bone up and go, or maybe I'll have to wait for next year. But what if there is no next year? I'm pretty sure this would be one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  Decisions, decisions. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Roll, Two Roles.

Dinner Saturday Night:
Black bean burger with swiss cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and sauteed mushrooms on an onion roll, with a side of homemade sweet potato fries and ketchup (this recipe, but with garlic powder and paprika and seasoning salt instead of cumin, salt, and ground red pepper).

Breakfast Sunday Morning:

Two eggs over easy with swiss cheese and sliced Bosc pears on a toasted onion roll.

It was most definitely a delicious kind of weekend. Oh, what planning one's meals/grocery shopping will do for the taste buds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today, in Geek Household...

E and I actually just had an argument about who got to fill out the Census. It was an epic battle over who got to be Person 1 versus Person 2, and it involved a lot of "No, I wanna fill out the Census!" whining back-and-forth. In the end, he won because he had the initiative to actually get off the couch and get the form, but I wouldn't let him fill out the Person 2 section, and filled it out myself instead.

And now it's off to the Census Data Collection Center or whatever, where the government will cull that data and use it to allocate money and government representatives and blah blah blah. Fill out your censuses, people! I know that last semester, when I was doing research with the 1860 census for one of my professors, I was glad all those schmucks answered the door to the census takers!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Czech Republic style.

E called me yesterday afternoon and told me, excitedly, that not only were we getting corned beef and cabbage for dinner, we were getting it at the beer garden. The beer garden, dear friends, is a magical place about a block from our apartment. It's essentially a gravel yard full of picnic tables, with hundred-year-old trees offering shade and high stone walls shielding you from the neighborhood around you. And they serve beer. Lots of beer, and lots of Eastern European food, and occasionally they also have live entertainment.

There it is! We've been anxiously awaiting the return of beer-garden weather since our last visit in early November, when we brought a couple of visitors there just to witness its magic, willing ourselves to finish our pitcher in the cold. Worth it.

So, we get to the beer garden and settle in, enjoying the last few rays of sunshine for the evening. Turns out, they weren't actually serving corned beef and cabbage like the person E talked to on the phone said, so we ordered off their regular menu. Kielbasa, potato pancakes, pierogi, sauerkraut and these amazing things that were like gnocchi -- but obviously weren't since they weren't Italian -- smothered in cheesy sauce. Mmmmm, everything was so delicious, and we'll just have to find an Irish pub sometime soon to get our boiled cabbage fix (though we did have some pickled red cabbage last night that was delicious). Unfortunately, I don't know my limits anymore in my old age, so I powered through slightly more than one pitcher of beer by myself in little more than 2 hours, and I had an interesting night after that, to say the least. This was my Facebook status when I got home:

Translation:  I'm drunk.  It's St. Patrick's Day, which we celebrated at a Czech restaurant with kielbasa. It's 8:46 pm and I feel like I'm dying because I'm drunk. Oh my god, Oh my god, this Bon Jovi song was on at the bar and I not only sang it there, but I left my friend a voicemail of me singing it and I am still singing it now that I am home.

It wasn't pretty.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One of those [Wednes]days...

Reasons Why Today is Lame:
  • It was pretty near impossible for me to get out of bed this morning. The cat was cuddling, E was dead asleep, and the sun wasn't so bright in the sky as it was last week because of DST. 
  •  It's St. Patrick's Day! But instead of witnessing NYC's parade and the city's descent into debauchery, I am at my internship like a good little drone. I don't even neeeed these hours, psh.
  • My tights are too big, so I have puddling at my ankles. Now I know what all those super-skinny girls were complaining about in middle school.
  • My cotton dress, which I attempted to make appropriate for very early Spring by rocking tights and a cardigan with it, keeps sticking to my too-big-tights and riding up while I walk.
  • ...which is to suggest that I can walk without pain. Which would be a lie. Ow ow ow ow ow Jillian Michaels, I blame YOU (and myself for having such weak thighs).
However, today is also busy -- I have a full slate at my internship (responsibility, yay!) and I'm in discussions with various potential wedding caterers via email to distract me whenever I feel like I'm being too productive. AND this evening, E and I are going to go get corned beef and cabbage to honor our non-Irishness! Mmmm, cabbage.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm diggin this lady:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"These abs don't come for free"

Jillian Michaels is evil. E decided on Sunday that he wants to start running, so we got geared up in what we thought was a break in the otherwise relentless rain. By the time we got downstairs it was pouring again, so we gave up on that idea, but E convinced me to do The Shred, which I've had forever but hadn't worked up the courage to actually do yet. It. Was. Brutal. Absolutely brutal. I am not in the best shape (but I can run over 2 miles without stopping now!), and this program made me feel it. Someday I will recover and be able to do it again. Maybe.

In the meantime, though, I was left hobbling around Manhattan today, 2 days later, when E and I decided to go to the New York Historical Society. We're both on Spring Break this week, but bad, bad weather Friday-Monday kept us indoors, and I'm back to my internship tomorrow, so this was our big exciting day. We were going to go see the Tim Burton exhibit at the MOMA, but of course it's closed on Tuesdays, so we made a last minute decision to go the the NY Historical Society instead of trekking to Brooklyn for the NY Transit Museum and the Prospect Park Zoo. It was an interesting museum, and we topped that with a visit to Shake Shack, where I got a Chicago hot dog!

What is a Chicago hot dog? Wikipedia has this to say:
Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed, boiled or grilled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, originating from the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustardonion, sweet pickle relish (often a dyed neon green variety called "Nuclear Relish"), adill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt.
I first learned about Chicago hot dogs from The Phantom Gourmet, a Boston cable show about local (and not-so-local) good eats. I have had one of these suckers on my mental plate since, and it did not disappoint. Spicy, tangy, and with the tomatoes to soothe the palate. I had a bite of E's burger, as well, which was a perfect fast-food-done-right slab of meat and veggies on a bun, and we got an order of amaaazing french fries as well. We also split a large root beer (and it was real root beer, not just A&W or something) and a chocolate shake that was amazing. I want to go back. Now.

We walked across Central Park to enjoy the perfect, sunny, 60-degree early spring weather, and saw about a million cute dogs wandering through the park. Every time I'm out and see happy pups bounding through life, I want a dog, and then I remember that I am not willing to climb up and down the stairs to my 4th floor walk-up to walk the dog in wind/rain/snow/heat/etc. Especially when my quads are BURNING TO HIGH HEAVEN due to ill-advised workout videos.

I hurt. I hurt a lot.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not Belgian Waffles (which were premiered at the World's Fair!)

I made breakfast this morning. I'm actually not a big fan of breakfast. I know, I know, that's a sacrilege. But it's true. Give me soup or a sandwich or a stew any day. I even prefer eating lunch/dinner foods for breakfast most of the time if I can. I know my way around the kitchen for any meal, but somehow I'm best at breakfast. I've recently started making what have been called "diner quality" homefries, and the combination of avocado, eggs and tomatoes is amazing -- usually I prefer the eggs over easy, all on toast, but we're lacking bread today.

Otherwise it's been a lazy day. Slept late (and probably will again tomorrow since we're losing an hour by setting the clocks ahead), avoided the torrential rain, watched Moon (so, so, SO good!), and ate gyros, and now I'm watching an awesome documentary on the 1964-65 World's Fair. The World's Fair is a recurring theme in my life, apparently.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In the kitchen

Lately, I've been thinking pretty much exclusively of kitchens and workspaces when it comes to home decorating. We don't have a "real" kitchen, but rather a stove, sink and fridge on a stretch of wall in our living/dining room, which we've augmented with an IKEA kitchen cart. It works, but it doesn't work, and pretty much my only requirement for when we move (in over a year) is a real kitchen. With more than 2 cabinets, and with counter space!

Speaking of kitchens, I've been experimenting in ours. Mostly with cookies. I have been adapting my perennial favorite cookie recipe: Rocky Road Cookies! The recipe as written comes out perfect every time -- moist, caramelly sweet and the perfect chewy/crunchy combination. I made them last week and didn't have nuts or white chocolate chips, and the resulting chocolate chip-marshmallow combo was much appreciated by the people with whom I shared. Last night I was looking in the cabinets and realized we had graham crackers, chocolate chips, and mini marshallows, which made me want s'mores. So, I tried to adapt the rocky road cookie recipe to make s'mores cookies, which didn't really work since the broken up graham crackers just kind of got subsumed into the batter. Next time I'd try it with larger chunks, or even place the batter on top of a square of graham cracker on the cookie sheet before baking.  The little tiny bits did add a nice graham cracker sweetness to the cookies, though!

Additionally: Why yes, I do plan to change my header to something cheesy related to whatever seasonal holiday is fast approaching at any given moment throughout the year. Thanks for asking!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A dress by any other color...

I spent the weekend in my home state, Connecticut, and I am glad to be back even if it means school and work and stressing out about what to do for the summer. My motivation for the trip was a visit to several bridal salons with Ren and her mom and sister, and we had two experiences: 1 at that chain that rhymes with Shmavid's Shmidal and another at a smaller, local boutique. She ended up purchasing a [beautiful!] dress at the boutique, and we had good experiences at both stores, but somehow seeing that all gone down has made me want to put off the dress-shopping thing even further.

It's not about the attention (okay, it's kind of about the attention) or the cost (oh wait, it's definitely about the cost) or any of those things, it's the way that the symbolism of the wedding gown seems to play out.   It becomes this, like, giant thing, this symbol of weddingness that sets the tone for your entire wedding, more than the venue seems to, more than the food or the drinks or the words you say at the ceremony. The dress, and other bridal accessories, are one giant symbol of what's Important about your Wedding Day (caps required). Your dude's in a suit like always, your guests are eating delicious things and drinking intoxicating things, and there's dancing involved. Even though this combination of things seems to be confined mostly to the wedding experience these days, if you were to take out the ceremony and, importantly, that big white beacon of light of a dress, you'd just have a party.

Women's clothed bodies -- and their bodies in and of themselves -- have long been places of regulation of social norms and controls, and despite the leaps that the women's movement has made, we still see this at play every day. Women are put in more restricting, uncomfortable clothes, forced to teeter around on high heels and wear constricting undergarments, mostly in an attempt to render their bodies less usable for themselves and more easily consumable by men. Additionally, you see gender dynamics play out in women's clothing in ways that you simply don't in men's: if a woman wears pants, she's just looking out for her own comfort/ease of movement/etc.; if a man wears a dress, he is emasculated, rendered powerless, and -- importantly -- rendered female. In the former case, the woman is aspiring to the status of the man by co-opting his clothing. In the latter, the man is devaluing himself by dressing like a woman.

None of that is news to anyone. And, I firmly believe that a woman can be comfortable with her femininity and still be a feminist. I myself love dresses and heels and do my makeup and hair on a daily basis, and I identify myself as a radical feminist. I don't feel like those loves (for dresses and for women's rights) are in conflict.  Womanhood is the cornerstone of my identity, and I am lucky to have never felt conflicted in my gender. The whole key to the women's movement is giving women the choice to have a career outside the home or raise children within it, to have doors held open for them and to hold doors open for others, and, yes, to wear pants or wear dresses with reckless abandon.

But for some reason, this giant, messy, outdated symbolism related to courtship and marriage and weddings as transitional moments is very problematic for me. I want to feel beautiful on my wedding day, and I know I will, but I also want to mediate the symbols as I intend them, and as my guests are conditioned to interpret them.  What I mean is, I want to be able to wear a white dress, and not have it mean that I am somehow pure, or virginal, or an unsullied woman submitting myself to the will of my husband. I want to say vows with language that does not imply gender roles, or is possibly even gender neutral. If I decide to wear a veil (which I won't), I'd want to wear it without that weird implication that I am, again, pure, or that by unveiling me my husband is taking possession of me.  Eventually, I want to become a wife without all of the linguistic or societal baggage that goes along with that word, and I want E to be a husband in the same vein.

This is something I've been negotiating since long before I got engaged. I didn't want to be marked by an engagement ring before E was, so I proposed back to him with a ring. I don't want to deal with the white dress syndrome, so I am trying hard to find an appropriate colored dress I love.  However, all along I have found that it's hard to convey the difference between what I mean and what people interpret from these symbols. For instance, I felt immediately when I got engaged that people suddenly felt that all I wanted to talk about was my nuptials. One of my new professors asked me when I was getting married at an advisory meeting when I barely knew her and we had no reason to be discussing my personal life.  When I met E's friends for the first time, they fired off question after question about our wedding, even though at that point we had nothing planned. E said later that they hadn't asked him about it.  These people are well-intentioned, but I felt that pressure from very early on to be that BRIDE in capital letters. I will not define my life based on my relationship, no matter how successful (or unsuccessful). I am not a BRIDE, just like I will not be a WIFE. I am, however, a WOMAN, and I am trying to mediate the expectations of others with my own.

For instance, I was talking to a friend about the whole tradition of the dad giving the bride away. My own father passed away when I was young, so I don't have to worry about this, but even if he were alive I don't think I'd be comfortable with the practice. My friend is very close to her father and wants to honor that relationship with this practice, but she was concerned that her guests would interpret it simply as the father passing ownership of the daughter onto the new husband. Do I think anyone will be consciously thinking that at her wedding? No. But these symbols are perpetuated because in some corner of our patriarchal society's group memory, we think it makes sense. The husband will now provide for the woman, as the father provided for her until then. We have sassy, independent, self-reliant women being put into these molds because they think it's the right thing to do, or because they genuinely want to honor their fathers this way but their guests interpret these symbols as they were written to be interpreted.

This has gotten off topic, but I am speaking generally to the system of symbolism around weddings and how it is essentially impossible to operate outside of that system of meaning. Every action we take at these highly culturally mediated events has meaning, and often a meaning that most people probably don't intend these days (I hope). But is there a solution? Do we just buck any and all tradition and make it up as we go along? Our guests have their own culturally mediated views on the world that will regulate the way they interpret your totally original wedding as well. Do we practice every tradition just because it's the way things are done? Or can we pick and choose traditions to follow and to leave behind based on the vision we have of the world, and our relationship with our partners and those around us?

I am nervous about trying on wedding dresses, but not because I'm scared of a white dress. I am nervous about the symbolism of that white dress, the meaning we have placed on it in the last 150 years of its use in weddings.  And yet, I am also a product of my culture, so that even as I look at grey and champagne and gold and peach dresses, I am still drawn to white/ivory ones, and concerned I won't feel like a bride if I don't marry in a white dress. I know it's silly, but that's the conflict between the bridal and the feminist parts of my brain.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I have NEVER loved sports.

I am so glad I don’t like sports, because I am pretty much convinced that die-hard sports fans will die ten years before I do because of game-watching-induced heart disease. Seriously, E gets SO WORKED UP when he’s watching whatever sporting event happens to be on a given night, and he screams and yells and claps and paces the room nervously. It’s enough to get me worked up while I am innocently surfing the internet on the couch next to him.
And if his team loses? Oh, dear. Oh. Dear. He will be in a funk for hours. I don’t understand this at all, because while I have occasionally gotten absorbed in a baseball game and have experienced the euphoria of the drought-ending Red Sox World Series win in 2004, I don’t think I have ever, ever really been upset — like emotionally affected — about a loss, even for a team I have really liked. For instance, I was annoyed when the Sox lost the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees (I used to follow baseball, before E’s INSANE SPORTS FAN viewing requirements destroyed that pleasure by making a game where grown men wear knee socks Srs Bzns), but that annoyance lasted for about 2 minutes before I got over it. In contrast, E just nearly had a meltdown because his wireless card was having trouble connecting to our network after the UConn men lost a basketball game.
My aunt is married to a die-hard sports fan, and somehow they’ve negotiated this for the last 30 or so years. When we saw them recently, E and my uncle were talking about something that involves balls (but not like that), and I made some snarky comment to my aunt, who told me that she resisted the whole sports thing for years. Really put up a fight. But somewhere along the way, she got worn down, and now she really likes watching a game or two.
I doubt that’ll ever be me (I’ve tried, really I’ve tried, in the name of fun nights out eating chicken wings and drinking beer), but it won’t hurt E to dream.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Once E gets home, we’re going to go for a run together this beautiful, not-dark-til-after-6-pm afternoon. I haven’t run in a while (this weather is depressing and demotivating. Also, I am lazy.), but I finally went ahead and registered for my first ever 5K, which I’ll be running on April 3rd, so it’s time for me to get back in gear so I don’t embarrass myself on the course. This will also be the first time I’ve ever run with E. I am nervous. I am a sloooow runner, and I haven’t been in a while, and I think I have a mild undiagnosed case of asthma based on how much I wheeze while I run. Seriously, I have to really focus on my breathing in order to avoid a coughing fit.
Anyway, hopefully all goes well and neither of us wants to kill the other when we get home. On a final note, the best part about this 5K is that the course is on the former World’s Fair grounds out here in Queens, so I’ll be running in the shadow of the Unisphere, which I am squishing in the photo above. I kind of love the World’s Fair grounds, so this might be a major motivation for running this race.