Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last week the New York Times published a gift guide with 100 notable books of 2011. If this were a required reading list for the classroom, I'm afraid I could expect to fail. Honestly, of the novels on the list, only three are on my list to read at some point in the future: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, and The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Do I feel like less of a reader because of this? Nah.

We all have varied tastes and frames and reference that draw us to different books. Most of the books that found their way into my hands this year were published in previous years. A few of my favorites that did come out this year include Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

What about you? Did you read any of the books on the Times notable list?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Censorship: ruminations on words of ill repute

Print by Brainstorm Print and Design. On my want list for my typography wall.

I've been thinking a lot lately about censorship. Until recently, my posts here would automatically get reposted to Facebook. In fact, it was darned near my only activity on the site. However, as the number of work colleagues "friending" me through the site increased and my connections to those on the site grew thinner, I found myself rethinking topics or language I'd naturally use in potential posts.

I was censoring myself.

Those who know me well know I'm wont to bite my tongue and don't always shy away from peppering my speech with a colorful word or two, so I couldn't help but be disappointed with myself when I realized I was holding back. Don't get me wrong. Very few posts tempt me to drop the f-bomb (if I get political, watch out). On the other hand, if I'm leery of posting a picture of my William Powhida print, I think that's cause for concern.

You see, these are simply words. It is us who give them special status, empowering them and deeming them unsavory. Are there hurtful, racist words I refuse to let enter my repertoire*? Absolutely. On the flip side, what did 'fuck' ever do to anyone? I want to take back the power we've given certain words.

Two events early in my childhood played pivotal roles in my view on curse words. The first time I ever learned that 'fuck' was a bad word was in 2nd grade. One of my new classmates was named Phouc. Not realizing how to pronounce it, I chose the phonetic route. I remember telling my mom and grandma about this kid one day and quickly learning this was a word I wasn't supposed to say. Later that year, my teacher, Mrs. Dodds, attempted to steal back the word's power by teaching us about its historic use.

Cut to several years later and me sitting in a church pew. I forget the overarching message the preacher was giving, but I'll never forget this one piece. He said that nowhere in the Bible did it say cursing was sin. That's because it isn't. They are simply words and, perhaps, a more ignorant way of expressing a thought. However, the words themselves aren't a sin to say but rather the intent behind their use. I couldn't agree more. I'd go out on a limb and say that 98% of the time I throw out a curse word there is no anger or evil intent behind the word (all bets are off if I'm driving).

*stepping down from soap box*

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest :-)

*Flinging the big words today. How you like them apples? ;-)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Passing on holiday food traditions

2008 family photo  
Christmas 2008, at the nursing home

The holiday season always sparks conversations about traditions, often centered around food, among my friends. This Thanksgiving was no different. I find historic and regional eating habits fascinating.

After our conversation on Thursday, I found myself flipping through a cookbook my mom and grandma made for me a year or so after I moved up north. While there aren't stories accompanying the recipes, reading over many of the entries transported me back to our kitchen table. I've included a couple of recipes below.
Long Boy Cheeseburger - These beauties were a Christmas Eve staple. They were sort of like an open-faced burger baked in the oven. Topped with ketchup, they were tasty and a quick fix before we began opening presents. 

In a 2-qt bowl, mix the following ingredients: 1 lb ground beef, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup catsup or chili sauce, 1/4 chopped onion, 1/2 cup cornflakes, and 1/2 evaporated milk.

Cut three 6-inch Brown 'n Serve french rolls in half lengthwise. Put equal parts of the meat mixture on the cut side of each roll. Spread evenly.

Bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees about 20-25 minutes or until the beef is done. During the last 5 minutes of baking, top with a slice of American cheese. Serve.

Cookie Logs - Charlie and I called these turds (because, let's face it, that's exactly what they looked like). Despite our disgusting nickname for them, they were my favorite Christmas treat. I'm pretty sure they made an appearance on every tray my grandma sent to my mom and grandpa's offices and to school.

1 lb powdered sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup chunky peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers, 1 cup melted margarine

Mix all together and roll into logs. Put in the refrigerator and chill. Then, melt chocolate bark with about 1 tbsp of shortening. Dips logs into the chocolate. Let set.
I would love to start a collection of regional cookbooks. I've been kicking myself for passing up a cookbook of recipes from the Crooked Road, Virginia's scenic music trail. I spotted it a few weeks ago while in Rocky Mount on a work trip. If you're interested in regional food culture and oral histories, you should check out the new Foodways project in Texas.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


the pumpkin cake

Another year, another friendsgiving (seems to be the popular term around the internet). I combined the powers of my pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese to form the cake above. I also brought brussel sprouts, but they weren't as pretty. :-)

I always miss my family even more around holidays I can't spend with them, but I'm lucky to have good friends who will take me in. I'll even forgive them for not letting me win at Uno.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

scenes from my weekend (sort of)

My piñata
Amanda and Brent at her birthday dinner
Mozzarella sticks!

My weekend has been fairly lazy, and I'm perfectly okay with that. I countered a 2.6 mile walk around my neighborhood with a day on my couch spent catching up on The Vampire Diaries and Hart of Dixie. I made up for time spent cleaning my apartment and making meals for the week with a four hour nap. It's all about finding the balance in life ;-) The photos above include the final results of my pinata making, Amanda and Brent at her birthday dinner, and homemade mozzarella sticks (damn you, pinterest).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

List: random thoughts and links taking up brain space

Early stages of a mini piñata

If you were camped out inside my head, you'd have to wade through all of these links and thoughts. Strap on your waders and come on in.
  • Have you ever noticed when you discover a new thing suddenly it's everywhere? I couldn't resist picking up a pint of Jeni's salted caramel ice cream at Whole Foods last night, and later that night I see a mention by one of the people I follow on the Twitter. Tonight I see that they also got a shout out on the Anthology blog. (By the way, it was kind of amazing.)
  • Wal-Mart is coming to DC. You have no idea how angry and frustrated this makes me. I have been in my fair share of Wal-Mart stores. Hell, I'm from Texas. Every weekend used to involve a trip there. Proponents herald the number of jobs the stores will bring to the District and the injection of funds into the economy. What about the number of independent businesses and smaller stores it just might force to close? 
  • I may have bought ingredients to make this pumpkin cream cheese Shutterbean posted the recipe for.
  • I want(!) this Kate Spade hedgehog coin purse, but it seems like such a decadent, unneeded thing.
  • Do I take the train or fly home for Christmas?! I just can't decide. I really want to a relaxing journey via train, but the plane ticket (note: just the ticket...doesn't include baggage fees, transportation to and from the airport) is cheaper. Grr.
  • I made my momma's recipe for tater tot casserole tonight. Might have been a dangerous decision.
  • Earlier this week I made a mini pinata (beginning stages above) using Jordan's tutorial. So fun. I will definitely be doing this again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three random things

geometric pattern

One of the blogs I read on the regular is One Pearl Button. When Alli posted today asking people to delurk and post three random things about themselves, I figured the least I could do was oblige. So, without further ado, I leave you with three random, silly things you may not know about me.

1. I have multiple (yes) funny, embarrassing bathroom stories. Most of them involve what could be argued as exotic locales, so I don't feel too bad that I seem to collect them. Have you ever been used a public restroom in Taiwan? Most of them are are porcelain holes in the ground and involve levels of coordination I do not always possess.

2. The only form of travel I haven't taken home to Texas is boat. Hmm...maybe a cruise to the gulf is in my future. I don't even know if that possible.

3. Speaking of Texas, I got kicked out of the capital for crossing the velvet rope and "impersonating" a state senator. No one else was around but a friend of mine, but security still came running. "Ma'am, are you a member of the senate?" You really need to imagine a drawl here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The art on my walls

The morning light was finally bright enough in my dark little apartment for me to attempt to capture some of the wall art I've got up. I've been wanting to take some photos in here for a long time, but my place gets horrible natural light (and I lack the skill to create my own natural-looking lighting).
typography wall - in progress Berkeley Illustration
I've recently done some rearranging in order to focus the wall behind my bed on art featuring typography (first photo above). My 20x200 piece by William Powhida (lower right corner) started it all. The other photo shows my small collection of Berkley Illustration prints.
First original Random art
The photograph in the picture above was the first (and far) piece of original art that I have purchased. A few years ago I went to the DCist photography show and fell in love with the colors in this shot of graffiti. The picture beside is what happens when you walk into West Elm and find the clearance section. I love trees and found wood, but I have to say that I've wondered more than once what I was thinking when I brought home that (all sales final) wooden sculpture.
By Tabitha Bianca Brown Favorite pieces
I keep wanting to type "this one's my favorite!" but have to stop myself. The first print above was from Ravena on my birthday last year and is by Tabitha Bianca Brown. I really do love it and what it stands for. You might remember it made an appearance in an earlier blog post.

The pieces in the photo on the right are also special. The girl on a unicycle was from Allie one Christmas. It's so simple and so me. The print below it was from Steven (also a Christmas gift). It's my only Elsie Flannigan print and means a lot to me. It's an incredible feeling to know someone out there is really listening to what you say and cares enough to remember.

I'm quickly running out of space for new prints/pieces on my walls. If anything prompts a move to a bigger space, that just might.

Pumpkin cupcakes: the easy way

Pumpkin cupcakes

I've been hoarding* two cans of organic pumpkin ever since the season began and decided that today was the day to put it to good use. All of these fall leaves have me in the spirit. That said, I'm not much of a baker. I always have to fight the desire to tweak the recipe (usually because I don't want to add a certain ingredient), so the more precise chemistry of baking sometimes alludes me. Plus, my stuff never turns out as pretty as the pictures, and that frustrates me to no end.

I used this recipe from Real Simple. Tweaks for this recipe include: store-bought icing, a splash of maple syrup, and my own mix of spices.

My favorite part of the picture above might just be my grandmother's Thanksgiving potholder.
*All it took was rumors of a pumpkin shortage for me to decide to buy two cans of the stuff. It should be noted I've never purchased pumpkin puree in my life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paddle like a river otter

Video from our (much smaller) program retreat back in July

I spent the past three days in the wilds of West Virginia for a work retreat. I always go into these things dreading them because the thought of being surrounded by 80+ people--even if I know them--makes me incredibly uncomfortable. That said, I always come out the other side pretty inspired and glad to be working with such a great group of people. There are almost always memories I'll carry with me for years to come. The current memory from this retreat with top billing is a post-midnight hike down to the river.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

When you care enough to send the best

Goodies from the mom

I came back to my desk this afternoon to an email about a package waiting for me at the front. When I saw the return address was from the Berdoll Pecan Farm, I knew it had to be from my mom. You see, the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas. You can't drive through a small town in the state without seeing a pecan processing plant offering to buy and sell you pecans. Stores dedicated to selling only pecan goods are also pretty common. When you're in Texas, it doesn't seem that odd, but once you've spent some time living somewhere else, it can seem a little precious.

Last year, my mom and I were driving to Galveston from San Angelo when we spotted Berdoll's. She's always up for making random stops with me, and seeing this package today was a perfect reminder of that trip and the quirkiness that is my home state. Thanks, mom!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

this & that

I love Oh Joy's this & that series. When I noticed two of my recent finds were aesthetically suited to each other, I couldn't resist. Both of these artifacts are great examples of the fact that some of my favorite things didn't cost me a dime. I'm the friend who will stop to collect a cool rock or twig as we're walking along.

graffiti rocks
This: Piece of concrete that was tossed off to the side at a recently graffitied wall. It looks like something the artists would first test their colors on, but to me, it's art.
broken up
That: Broken piece of a plate I spied while walking home from the bus one night and was immediately drawn to its colors.

Sunday, November 06, 2011



This is the face of 36. I've spent the last two days celebrating with some of my nearest and dearest. I went to my first roller derby match, shared Mexican food (and sangrias), was silly enough to try a Mexican Car Bomb (which we might want to rename it the Edgar Car Bomb), was rewarded with homemade birthday cake and attempted homemade birthday cake, and saw a funny show. It's been a good weekend.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Best of you

Peeping Tom

The end of the week, and I'm officially having one of those days. I didn't want to come here, didn't want to write. I think the result of burning the candle at both ends is emotions that are too close to the surface. I've been quick to anger and even managed a little cry. I suppose I could hide the fact that I've had a long day, but sometimes you've just gotta be real.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Lion king

Trying on hats

Keeping it light on the road. One of today's pit stops featured animal hats. I tried on the panda, but you'll find no evidence of this on the internets. I excel at getting colleagues to do silly things in front of the camera. Had some deep conversations tonight with this one about getting older.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A day in the life

Patapsco River @ Hollofield
 Taken today in the Patapsco River while checking out storm damage I've been crafty enough to hide. 

Some days I'm lucky enough to spend time hiking little trails and splashing around in the water. Some days. Balanced with an abundance of office work, it's enough to keep me sated.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Summer lovin'
Taken under an overpass in Cumberland while walking to a dam site.

Always up for a challenge, I thought I'd try NaBloPoMo (i.e., post something every day for the month of November) and what better place to start than to look back at how much of my October list I accomplished.

- take White's Ferry across the Potomac River
- record a podcast (plans are in the works, people!)
- finally do a corn maze
- host a beer tasting in an effort to finally find a beer I can stand to drink
- make a pie (including the crust)
- find a local trail to hike and do it
- go camping (really pushing for tent camping, since I've never done it)

I'm afraid I can only report a 43% success rate. :-/ What can I say, peeps? October was a busy month for saving rivers. That said, I managed to squeeze in some awesome things, including recording that podcast and conquering beer.

Alright, November, I'm ready for what you've got!