Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A few figs from thistles


                                                                                   First Fig 

                                                                                   My candle burns at both ends; 
                                                                                       It will not last the night; 
                                                                                   But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-- 
                                                                                       It gives a lovely light! 

                                                                                                 - Edna St.Vincent Millay

Another find from Saturday was a beautiful 1922 copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's A Few Figs from Thistles. I couldn't walk away from something whose first few pages spoke to me so.

Sufferin' Succotash: More on Regional Foods

thrifted cookbook
Remember last November when I mentioned a passing interest in regional food traditions? I don't think I ever followed that post up, but a couple of weeks later the Crooked Road cookbook I mentioned showed up on my doorstep (thanks, mom). Well, this has spawned a (slowly) growing collection of regional and/or historic cookbooks.

I picked up the above title while thrifting in Hagerstown on Saturday. It begins with an introduction to the region and its history and is chock full of recipes and little tidbits on things like why a certain recipe was important. Let's be honest. A lot of the recipes look pretty gross. There are recipes in there involving animal body parts that I never want to get to know. Still, I was determined to find something to whip up.
suffering succotash
Enter the winter succotash! I've included the recipe below as it appears in the cookbook with the strikeouts and red reflecting my modifications. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly going for historical accuracy. :-)

winter succotash

1 cup lima beans (2 cups frozen)
2 quarts cold water
1/4 pound salt pork
1 can corn
1 3 tablespoon melted butter
1 2 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup cream (if desired)

Parboil the beans, then put in a kettle with the cold water and salt pork. (1/4 lb butter may be used instead of the pork). Cook for 3 hours, then add the corn, melted butter and flour. Cook 3/4 of an hour longer. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the cream and add just before serving.

I pretty much followed none of the actual cooking instructions, since I'm pretty sure they're based on using dry beans. I cooked the lima beans according to the directions on the package, draining them before adding in the corn, melted butter and flour. I cooked the mixture an additional 5-6 minutes before adding salt, pepper and a splash of cream.

Let's just say the Nova Scotians know how to take the healthy out of vegetables.

P.S. Speaking of food culture, I pulled out one of my grandma's seasonal potholders this weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Research is fun when it involves a comics run

Posing @ Victory Comics

I've got a research project up my sleeve, and to kick it off, I ventured to Victory Comics on Saturday night. I wasn't a comic store virgin* (they have great toys), but I only know enough about comics to know how incredibly confusing it can be to dive right in. Instead, I took an ambassador (see above) to this foreign land.

Can I just tell you how much fun I had? I love passionate people. If you are obsessed with a hobby/job/issue, there's a pretty good chance I'll gravitate toward you. Comics people have passion in spades. They also aren't afraid to welcome you into their club**. I was clearly a poser and felt even worse going in asking about various Avengers spinoffs (research...just you wait!). Minus a bit of good-natured harassment, I spent over an hour monopolizing both the guy who worked there (aka Comic Dude) and Ravena (ambassador).

I went in with plans to pick up two comics for my project and left hoping that I discover a hidden love for comics in the volumes I picked up. As I told Comic Dude, two of my favorite things are art and reading so, theoretically, comics should be right up my alley. Holding up a compendium of The Walking Dead, he declared it a work of art with storytelling to rival some of the finest literature, and in that moment, I thought that maybe, just maybe, he was right.

*Both Austin Books & Comics (in Austin...duh) and Atomic Comics in Baltimore are impressive.
**Glen Weldon was right!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My story as told by water, part I

Beach baby
My first memory of water isn't of trips to the beach. It's not swimming lessons or playing in the backyard pool.

White, fake fur coat zipped with the hood pulled tight to ward off the chill in the air.  My feet pedaled my Big Wheel furiously near the apartment's pool area, eyes squeezed shut. Memories of the plastic tire grinding against concrete and what I'm sure is a faint smile at the freedom of my four year-old self barreling along.

I've lost time over the years either due to the unreliability of a toddler's mind or because it was a freaking long time ago. I don't remember why I stopped. I only remember it was abrupt, and when I opened my eyes, my Big Wheel was poised at the edge of pool. I can't tell you what color my trike was, but I can describe the pool drain in the deep end and how it seemed as deep as the parts of the ocean where I imagine sharks live. I know that, despite my young age, I knew I had escaped something by stopping just in the nick of time. Somehow, even then, I already had a healthy respect for water.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life's too short...

Goodbye, St Paul!

From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“I hate all those flirty-birty games that women make up. Life’s too short. If you ever love a man, don’t waste time hanging your head and simpering. Go right up to him and say, ‘I love you. How about getting married?’”

                                                                                                                              - Francie’s mom

I have a collection of quotes in the notes section of my phone. This is a new favorite and seemed appropriate on a day when we're all reflecting on the brevity of life. One day, this will be my story, and I'm very okay with that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The sweet life in DC

New Union Market
view of the main hall
Union Market timeline
pie in the sky @ Dangerously Delicious
counter culture

Reishia, Ravena and I headed into DC this weekend to check out the grand opening of Union Market. As you can see from the photos above, they've totally opened the space up, giving it an airy, industrial feel. While many of the shops were still getting up and running (or not open at all), you can see the potential there. Perhaps one day it will be DC's own version of Reading Terminal Market. We didn't really* buy anything, but I'd like to give it a couple of months and go back.

Since we were on that side of town, we couldn't help but pop into Dangerously Delicious pies to pick up slices for later. The rest of the weekend wasn't quite as sweet (*rimshot*), but nonetheless, it was productive.

*I may have bought a small serving of sweet potato pie ice cream for us to try. Yum!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

30 Days of Lists: Week 1

This month I managed to get my act together and register for 30 Days of Lists, created and organized by Kam and Amy. I've been meaning to do this for the past couple of rounds because, well, I like to make lists. However, I've always been hesitant because (1) the thought of adding even a 30-day challenge to my day was daunting and (2) I don't scrapbook or do any other paper journaling.

Despite what I just wrote, I signed up and even decided to make something tactile. I'm no art journaler, but I kind of enjoyed encouraging myself to express myself in this way.
30 Lists - cover 30 Lists - day 130 Lists - day 2
30 Lists - day 2 detail 30 Lists - day 330 Lists - day 4
30 Lists - day 5 30 Lists - day 630 Lists - day 7

Friday, September 07, 2012

On re-reading that embarrassing diary

There is no more humbling experience than looking back through past diary entries.

After seeing a “tweet” a couple of weeks ago from @amytschubert on pruning her archives, I found
myself revisiting my own early posts. Immediately, I was surprised to discover that I’ve kept this blog, posting off and on, for roughly eight years. Whoa.

I also quickly discovered how annoying the Serena of eight years ago was*. This space has always been a personal journal and place to tuck all of those thoughts and opinions away. Still, I found myself cringing at how much I whined and complained. I’m not talking about the political or social rants (I still stand by those) and am, instead, talking about the posts on people upsetting me or how tired I was or apologizing for not blogging. I painted such an unhappy picture of myself when, I know for a fact, I was having a blast.

While the little historian and archivist living inside me cringed a bit, I decided then and there that I was overdue for a little purging of my own. Even though the purging isn’t complete, it seems appropriate that I record the lessons I’ve learned or been reminded of.
  • I used to go to a lot of concerts and listened to some mighty fine bands.
  • Sometimes the extra money made working two jobs isn’t worth it. I contend that 90% of my perceived unhappiness at that time can be attributed to the fact I was sleeping roughly 3 hours a night and was constantly tired.
  • Lots of goals, very little follow through. Finish things, McClain.
  • Cut some of the younger folks a little slack in Twitter and on their blogs. Turns out, you were just as annoying as they can be. Everyone needs an opportunity to grow.
  • That said, constantly complaining and apologizing for not blogging is a no. Keep it authentic, and don’t be afraid to be transparent with your feelings on occasion. That should be mandatory. However, just stop apologizing for not blogging, complaining about not blogging, etc.
  • Looking back, the posts I’m the most proud of really do reflect the things I still enjoying writing about the most.

*Yeah, yeah. I’m still annoying. Whatever.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Community Cooking Circle

cooking circle 2

Inspired by sewing circles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the new community-driven food movement, we've decided to start a cooking circle! Something about the coming fall makes this seem like the right time to start this kind of venture. While I do cook during the summer, I'm more apt to turn on the oven when the temperatures finally start to drop. Soups, breads, granola...the list is endless.

Live in the Northern Virginia/DC area and want to join us? This likely won't involve meetings or anything like that, and we're trying to keep the numbers low to start. We're still working out the details, but the basic gist of it is that once a month we'll each make and package something* to share with the group. For example, I made more of Joy the Baker's homemade curry ketchup** on Monday. Instead of hoarding all of the ketchup for myself, I could have prepared small jars for the cooking circle.  

Once we solidify a small group of charter members (we're aiming for 5 to 7 to start), we'll finalize the guidelines and pull together a calendar.

Leave a comment here or email me at notmiranda@gmail.com to join us! It'll be fun.

*There's at least one vegan in the group. If that scares you, you may want to skip this. 
**Best ever. Make your own!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Shadow of Night

shadow of night

If you haven't started reading the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, you really need to stop stalling and pick it up. I finished the second book in the trilogy, Shadow of Night, early last month and was so completely satisfied with Harkness's second novel that I've been hesitant to pick up a new title and face potential disappointment. 

Harkness is an historian by training with a specialization in science and medicine in the 15-17th centuries, and it's the way her scholarship is so expertly woven throughout that draws me to this series. Before you balk, remember that this is a novel. She brings the history and science to life, all while building complex and emotional familial relationships. My heart swelled to bursting can be such a cliche phrase, but it's also such an accurate description of how this story left me.

P.S. She does some fun things with the explorers and poets of the school of night that I think you'll love.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Kam's disposable camera swap

Several weeks ago (yes, I'm running a bit behind schedule), Kam of Campfire Chic decided to host a disposable camera swap as a way to kick off her third year of blogging. What? Receive surprise pictures from a stranger*? Count me in!

I was lucky enough to be assigned Maryam of Pamplemousse1983 as a swap** partner. She's certainly no stranger to the camera, so I was excited to see what she came up with. Her flipbook-style photos were begging to be made into a little stop action video.

*When I put it like that, I feel like I should have been leery. ;-)
**The film pics I shot aren't viewable yet seeing as how I only put the camera in the mail today. See running a bit behind.