Friday, April 29, 2011

{This Moment}

 {This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.
If you haven't already done so, go ahead and enter my giveaway!  
Today's your last chance, and your odds are good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gratituesday: Books

You may not know this, but I really like reading.  I like reading blogs, I like reading newspapers, I like reading my Nook.  But, more than anything, I like reading books.  Reading books is, more likely than not, the reason I decided to be a writer.  I remember the first book I memorized and "read" outloud to my kindergarten class, Good Night, Moon (for the reason I didn't get a PhD, see this hilarious/terrifying McSweeney's piece), and I remember the first book I wrote, a treatise on feeding Shamoo when I was six.  Though I don't read as much print as I'd like to, I can appreciate the book as an object, and I love all sorts of notebooks, papers, covers, and literary ephemera, and the act of sitting in a comfortable chair with a book in hand is second-to-none.  I could seriously go on about them so long that you would probably stop reading, but I love them, and hopefully I'll write more about that in the near future.

In the meantime, I should say that although I don't read many book blogs, I did recently win a book giveaway on We Ski Slow, which was exceedingly exciting.  And by exceedingly exciting, I mean I actually did a little dance in my chair when I read the email.  (I would say that I never win anything, but that's a lie.  Once, when I was eight, I won a banana stuffed animal at our Fireman's Fair.  Another time, at our sixth grade canteen, I won an inflatable chair.  Both were awesome.)  I finished the book, I Was Amelia Earhart a few days ago, and I want to pass my good luck on to one of my awesome readers.  I didn't fall in love with the book, but I can't quite pinpoint why, since I've loved Amelia Earhart forever, I'm interested in reclamations of historical events, the language was lush and I was intrigued by the narrative style, which changes points-of-view at seemingly random intervals.  That's a lot of reasons to like a book, but this just didn't quite hit the spot for me, so if you win the book, I'd love to get your thoughts on it.  So, one lucky commenter will get a copy of this book.  But wait, there's more!

A second lucky commenter will get a copy of The Moon is Down, by one of my favorite authors of all time, John Steinbeck.  (Another reason I didn't get a PhD is that all of the people I want to study are American men writing from 1920-1950.  In case you haven't heard, there's a surplus of us.  PS - My backup plan was Virginia Woolf.  Seriously.)  I've actually never read The Moon is Down, but since I've loved everything I've read by Steinbeck, I suspect this will be awesome as well.  We can read it together, if you want, winning-commenter, and create a one-time book club of two.  Or you can win it and never speak to me again.  That's cool too.

So, if you've made it this far, you must really want one of these books!  Luckily, I have an average of about 2 comments on each entry, so the numbers should be in your favor.  Since Meghan created such a great list of beach reads, I won't ask you to comment with your favorite book or suggestion for a good summer novel.  You can if you want, but what I'd really like to know is your favorite place to read, or a particular spot that is forever tied to a book or reading in your mind. If you have a preference for which book you'd like, feel free to mention that also.  I'll keep comments open for the rest of the week, and announce the winner on Saturday morning (or Monday, if I'm particularly lazy).

And just in case you were wondering, my favorite place to read is my ratty armchair under a bright light next to my bookshelf.  My literary linked place is Spain, which is imprinted on my mind as a burnished copy of Cat's Eye in glaring sun and 115 degree heat, on the beach, listening to Tori Amos and more passionately in love with Roger than I'd ever been with another person in my life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekend Wanderings: Easter

I'm not a big celebrant of Easter, folks, but I had a nice one this year anyway.  My father's 59th birthday was on Thursday, and since my sister had class that evening, my whole family celebrated on Friday by visiting a new local barbecue place, 151 Grill.  It was a bit of a mixed bag: the ribs, burnt ends, mashed potatoes, and corn bread were amazing, but the macaroni & cheese, the fried chicken, and the corn fritters weren't as good as they could have been (admittedly, the breading on the fried chicken was some of the best I've ever had, but the skin was so fatty I couldn't bring myself to eat it).  I'd go back, but only for certain items.  I think my father enjoyed his birthday, although there weren't any gifts, because he's waiting to buy himself a new camera.  We Maffeis are nothing if not practical.

When I awoke on Saturday morning, it was pouring, so I canceled my plans to run and go to the farmer's market, and ran a few errands instead.  When we got back home, I made Easter bread for no real reason other than I seem to like making bread, and I didn't want to do the work I'd brought home.  Then, Roger, my mother, and I proceeded to watch no less than four hours of Will & Kate specials, including the Lifetime movie.  Stop judging me.  The bread turned out really well, and I now know way more about royal weddings than I ever needed to.

Sunday, we had a lovely brunch with Roger's family for Easter and his mother's birthday.  The rest of the day was spent working, with a brief pause to watch The Queen, which made me realize that I absolutely, positively, cannot live without these glasses.  I would defend myself against accusations that I am watching way, way too much royal-themed things lately, but if I am being honest, I am at this very moment watching The King's Speech, so I acknowledge I may have a problem.  That problem may or may not be "really, really missing Oxford."  So, there you have it.  A very quiet, very enjoyable, Easter weekend.

Friday, April 22, 2011

{This Moment}

 {This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

nkyin kyin: ALA Conference in Ohio

Saturday, April 16, 2011 - Columbus, OH

Dan & Allison at Home
When we woke up on Saturday, it was pouring, and we'd missed the free breakfast at the hotel. (Luckily, I still had some leftover pizza, so I was much less cranky about the lack of breakfast than Roger was!) We packed up our backpacks (Roger's birthday gift from me was a new one, which he admits is more comfortable than his 10-year-old Jansport), and headed out into the rain.  Once we finally managed to get out of Athens, the drive went smoothly, and eventually the deluge subsided, breaking into warm sun at one point before turning gray again just as we wandered into Columbus.  We were early, and hadn't gotten a hostess gift yet, so we drove around the city for a bit, and searched out a bottle of Maker's Mark for Allison and Dan, who kindly let us stay with them on Saturday night.

This is how adults live.
When we arrived on their doorstep, we found that, not for the first time, we'd forced Dan to come home early from the gym to let us in.  He brought us on a tour of their enormous apartment, which happens to be the second floor of a former convent.  Dan promised us it was haunted, but we didn't see any ghosts while we were there.  I don't think I've ever been in an apartment so large belonging to anyone under the age of 35, so the whole thing - from the full-size dining room table to the bookshelves to the (oh my god) separate offices for each of them - was incredibly impressive to me, and placed our good friends quite specifically in the world of Adults (as if they weren't already there...).  After dropping off our things and taking the house tour, Dan drove us on to campus to meet Allison, who was attending a conference of her own.

Goodale Park
After heading back to the apartment to drop off the car and let Dan shower, the four of us walked through Goodale Park, where pink trees were blooming over adorable couples and dogs ran free on the grass, to the North Market, a big covered market with a variety of vendors, for lunch.  Roger had the biggest samosa I have ever seen, and I had a large and delicious bowl of pho.  We walked up High Street and window-shopped at what looked like some great stores.  We're all broke, so we only stopped in one place, Funky & Functional, this really amazing antique and vintage shop.  It seems that the Midwest is the place to be for awesome pre-owned goods!  They had some really amazing things, including a set of china that looked like a more ornate version of the china I inherited from my grandmother, and a display bowl and candle-holder set that looked exactly like a display bowl I inherited from my grandmother.  Basically, the entire store looked like my grandmother's house must have in the 60s, and, um, that's amazing.  I wanted to buy the candle-holders, but they couldn't be sold without the bowl, so I left empty-handed.
North Market

We wandered a little longer, and walked back to the Allison and Dan's place once the neighborhood started to fall off.  We stopped for beer and I bought a six pack of Columbus Brewing Co.'s IPA.  I wasn't a big fan of it, but it's always nice to try something different.  The four of us hung out for a while at the apartment, catching up.  We hadn't seen each other since Christmas, and most likely won't see each other again until the summer, so it was great to be able to sit down and talk for a while.  Between her first year at grad school and my life suddenly getting busy this year, Allison and I don't speak anywhere near as much as we used to, but I still consider her a very dear friend, and I was so happy to hear about how well she's doing at OSU and in Columbus.  She and Dan (and their two cats - Weezy and Leo) seem so happy there!

The Burgundy Room
After voting on a place to eat, we headed to the Burgundy Room for a really great meal.  This wine bar has a nice selection of "tapas," which are more or less traditional appetizers, kicked up a notch and made with local ingredients.  The food was really good, and the prices were amazing.  For $27 each (including tip), we shared: a pitcher of sangria big enough to give us each three water-glassfuls, truffle oil fries, wild boar corndogs with molasses ketchup, super-flavorful pork sliders, crab cake with poached egg, shrimp & grits, and steamed mussels.  It was the perfect amount of food and wine, and we followed it up with Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, which really lived up to its name.  Aside from having really incredible flavors I've never considered (I had olive oil with sea-salt pepitas and Savannah buttermint - to die for - and Roger had a spicy Bangkok peanut and corn-syrup custard with whiskey and pecans), the man behind the counter was incredible.  Not only did he explain each flavor the way you might at a wine tasting, when he heard we were from New York, he told us the exact location of the Dean & Deluca in Manhattan that carries their pints.  I am a real sucker for knowledgeable customer service, but really?  That guy is fantastic.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
We ended our evening with more chatting, and a viewing of the incredible documentary, Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom.  Who would have thought wolverines were so awesome?  We headed to sleep right after the movie (and, okay, I fell asleep during the movie, because apparently I am 85-years-old) and saying goodbye, since we had to leave at 7am the next morning (because Allison and Dan are not 85-years-old and awake at 7am on Sundays).  The drive home was mostly uneventful, except for a good breakfast we had on the road at Panera and getting stuck waiting to get on the GWB for 45-minutes (about as shocking as the fact that it rained for some of the way home).  Overall, the trip to Ohio was a really nice one.  I think Roger and I have agreed that we won't be doing any more conferences in the Midwest for at least a few months (two within three weeks of each other felt like a lot), but the ALA was really interesting, seeing Roger speak was amazing, and we're so grateful to Allison & Dan for opening their home to us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

nkyin kyin: ALA Conference in Ohio

Friday, April 15, 2011 - Athens, OH

Friday, our last day in Athens, was filled with ever more panels: New Trajectories in South African Literature, Black Channels: Historiography, Art, and the Black Diaspora, and Publishing Africa, my final panel.  The publishing panel was the only one I felt really qualified to be at (well, other than the poetry one from Thursday, and that was just a reading), and I was a little disappointed to find that it was a panel on how to get one's book published, rather than on the nuances of publishing Africans and scholarship on Africa.  Either way, it was nice to end the conference on a note of full comprehension, and on a slower day.  In between the panels, Roger and I spent a lot of time lounging around outside, where the weather was warm and sunny and beautiful.  It feels like it's been a long winter in New York, and so it was lovely to be outside without a coat, even if only in between conferences.

Sunny, sunny Ohio University
We skipped the evening keynote and reception to hang out and enjoy our "vacation" a little, without any more intellectual stimulation.  Roger told one of his former professors during the conference, "I used to think everyone was being a little silly complaining about how hard conferences are, but they're more tiring than they sound."  I couldn't agree more.  We bought two small pies at Avalanche Pizza, which we ate back at the hotel in a move that reminded me a lot of vacations with my family when we were younger.  There's just something really decadent about eating in a hotel room.  Especially, I guess, when each person has a pizza to themselves.  My pizza, the Chicken Chubacabra (chicken, bacon, artichoke hearts, and cheddar), was really good, but a little much by the end of the second slice.  It did make me really keen to make my own bacon-and-artichoke-hearts pie sometime soon, though.

After two and a half days of lovely weather, the rain we'd outrun on our way out of New York finally made it to Ohio, and as we watched countless episodes of That 70s Show on netflix (oh, Roger, why must you draw me in to your terrible tv-watching habits!), it poured and poured outside, proof that if I need to drive for more than 45 minutes, it will rain for at least part of that drive.  That, however, is a story for tomorrow.

Next Up: We head to Columbus and see Dan & Allison for the first time in far too long!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

nkyin kyin: ALA Conference in Ohio

Sorry for the lack of updates last week!  We were in Ohio for Roger to deliver a paper at the African Literature Association's annual conference.  It was a wonderful time, and we got to see some old friends, but it did keep us busy, involving 20 hours of driving as it did.  Hopefully next week, I'll be back on my regular schedule.  Until then, here's a little recap of our trip:

Thursday, April 14, 2011 - Athens, OH

After a long Wednesday of driving, celebrating Roger's 23rd birthday, and putting the finishing touches on his paper, Thursday came as a big relief.  Roger delivered his paper, "Imagining Africa through the Multicultural Museum," first thing in the morning, and it went incredibly well.  The paper was a re-worked excerpt of his undergraduate thesis, and he gave it exactly one year and one day after he finished that behemoth, so I think it was a nice way to come full-circle.  I won't go into the details of the paper here, mainly because I'll probably not get down each nuance that Roger conveyed, but it went extremely well, and he had no trouble addressing the challenges of one particularly mean audience member.  He's still 100% focused on graduate school right now, but I hope that once things are settled with that, he'll be as proud of what he accomplished as I am.  He's a pretty smart cookie, that guy.
The view from OU
The rest of the day was spent in and out of panels, including ones on such interesting topics as: Reconfiguring the Global: Bodies, Commodities, and the Marketplace, Crossing Borders, Crossing Genres, New Writings and Explorations, African Poetry and Prose: Readings by Four African Women Writers, Local and Transnational Spaces in African Visual Arts, and a talk on genealogy by Laila Lalami.  They were all very interesting, and even the less interesting ones gave me some new ideas, so I'm really glad that we went.  It was also nice to be at a professional conference, which was, while very different in tone (and maybe not in a good way) from the conference in Indiana, a good experience for me.  Academia is a tough field, and while I'm not really entering it, it's a part of my life in a pretty major way, and it's good to get some first hand experience with it.

Roger at Salaam
Athens was a nice little town, mostly centered around the enormous university that it houses.  I'm always amazed by universities that become cities in and of themselves, and this was no exception.  The Baker Center, where the conference was held, was simply gorgeous.  A big, open building with a variety of amenities (including really good cakes and cookies and things for the conference), it was a really great location for the conference.  We didn't explore too much outside of campus, but we did have dinner (for the second night in a row) at Salaam, a recommendation from a friend I met in Indiana.  We went to the restaurant with Roger's thesis adviser, who is a poet and teaches Africana Studies, and had a wonderful meal.  Their harira is like nothing I've ever tasted (it even smelled beautiful), and I really enjoyed their hummus and coconut curry chicken.  After collecting our parking ticket (me? get a parking ticket? shocking.), we rushed off to the last panel of the evening, and headed back to the hotel (where JFK stayed in 1959!) around 10pm.  I'm not sure what Thirsty Thursdays are like in Athens, but I do know that I really enjoy getting to bed early lately!
Kroger x 2

Oh, and perhaps most importantly, Roger and I visited our namesake grocery store, Kroger, for the first time right before heading back to the hotel.  People seem to think it's pronounced crow-jer, but we know the truth!  While there, we bought a supply of gummies (for me) and seltzer (for him) and generally enjoyed ourselves in a grocery store that reminded me a bit of Wegman's in Geneva, with only one small difference.  Did you know that in Ohio, grocery stores can buy a special license to sell liquor?  Well, they can.

Next Up: The last day of the conference, and our last day in Athens, OH.

Friday, April 8, 2011

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worlds of Wonder: Tahiti
Guys, it's raining in New York.  Yes, I'm glad it isn't snowing any more, and yes, I know I don't like the heat and humidity of the deep summer, either, but I saw some dogwoods blossoming on 34th Street today like it was really and truly spring time, and I want sun.  And not just sun.  Sun, and sunglasses and sundresses.  Beaches and barbecues and boats.  I'm ready for spring and summer in a way that one is ready for them after seriously considering buying a Subaru all winter because that's how much snow there was.  And my idea of summer fun is pretty different than the average all-inclusive-buyer's idea, but in the spirit of longing for warmth, I present (an extremely abridged version of the wikipedia entry on) Tahiti:

Tahiti's average temperature is between 70°F and 88°F, and doesn't change much through the seasons.  It is part of French Polynesia, so the national language is French, though some of the population still speaks Tahitian.  The main industry is, of course, tourism, and there are a variety of luxury resorts throughout the islands, along with black sand beaches and pearls.  Straight south of Hawaii and a twelve-hour plane ride from JFK, I can think of some other beach vacations I'd be more likely to go on, but I can definitely see the appeal.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gratituesday: Pretzels
The first two days of this week have gone by slowly, and it seems like everyone I know is on vacation or about to be, so today really called for some pretzels.  I first had these when my parents were breaking in their new KitchenAid mixer, and was shocked that there was no butter in the recipe at all.  These pretzels are amazing, tasting just like those really greasy ones from the mall, and so easy to make.  I hardly ever cook on weekdays, so for me to put together something that needs to rise was a bit of a miracle, and also a testament to how simple they are.  They hardly take any effort at all, especially if you have a stand-up mixer, and the pretzels turn out absolutely perfect every time.

Although I can't say if they'll make the rest of my week move any faster, they definitely helped improve my mood this evening, and for this Gratituesday, that's enough.

Soft Pretzels (from AllRecipes)

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping [I use way, way less, & you can also try cinnamon/sugar!]
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
  4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned. 

Honey Mustard

I serve these with honey mustard, which is extremely simple: mix together 1/2 a cup of mayonnaise with a 1/4 cup honey and 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.  It makes a ton and it's seriously the best dip ever.  
Even though they taste best fresh, I've brought cooled pretzels and this dip to parties before and it's been a big hit!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Collage, Cyborg, Corpse: Conference in Indiana

Sunday, March 28, 2011 - Bloomington, IN to New York, NY

Despite Carlea promising me all weekend we would go to the IU gym's sauna (oh my, I just love saunas!), we ended up enjoying ourselves too much to make it there, and spent Sunday relaxing and getting ready to fly home.  Instead, we had a hearty breakfast at Wee Willie's, which was good and filling, if difficult for most people to find (as in, "No, you've passed it!  It's right across from the strip club.  Yes, that building that doesn't have a sign and looks closed.").  The food, service, and prices reminded me of George's at home, or Water Street in Geneva.  We headed back to Michelle's to finish packing, before meeting up with the group at Goodwill.  I told you there was a lot of thrifting this weekend.  This Goodwill was, compared to the others I've been in, miraculous.  It was clean, you could easily peruse the aisles, and they had really nice things, including furniture, for sale.  I'd definitely recommend a trip if you're out there.  My bag was stuffed full with books and my two new tops, but if it wasn't, I would definitely have bought some things. 

We all headed over to the Scholar's Inn Bakeshop afterward (this time at a bigger location) and enjoyed dessert before saying goodbye to Carlea's friends.  We boarded the bus and made our way safely to the Indianapolis airport, and shared an uneventful flight to Detroit together, before parting ways for good.  Or, until next weekend, when Carlea comes to New York to do a reading.  Exciting!

Overall, a really great experience.  I loved Bloomington, and am pretty much sold on the idea of living in a college town one day.  Speaking at the conference was wonderful and I felt really supported, and seeing everyone else's panels was inspiring and interesting.  I'd love to go to more conferences in the future, especially writing or literature related ones.