Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thing Fourteen: The Food of Love

My iTunes informs me that I have very nearly ten thousand songs uploaded.

It further informs me that, of those ten thousand, nearly 1100 have no album, a further 400 have no year, and 35 don't even have an artist.  And that doesn't even begin to get into duplicates, live versions, and the like. And nothing has any ratings. Some of these tracks, I've had for ten years. There's really no excuse for not getting them shipshape.

So today's goal is extremely boring, but in the interests of a tidy harddrive and appeasement of some of my more perfectionist tendencies, I really need to finally figure out my music library tagging.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thing Thirteen: A La Julia

Just like having a signature drink, I think that an awesome adult should have a signature dish. And I do - beef stew. There's barley in it, and carrots and celery and potatoes, and Guinness and whiskey. I use beautiful cuts of sirloin. And it's amazing. I once fed it to a dude who literally never ate anything but hamburgers...but he ate my stew, and liked it.

It also takes nine hours to make, and as I'm sure you can imagine, it is not inexpensive.

So what I think I need is a dish that is both mouthwateringly awesome, and is relatively quick and easy to prepare. (Quick and easy vs nine hours. I'm not expecting to pull off Julia Child in twenty minutes.) I need it to be something that basically everyone will be into, so, despite my personal preferences, I'm probably thinking chicken or vegetarian, not fish (I totally love fish). Who has suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thing Twelve: Manual Dexterity

I was out with friends this St Patrick's Day, and we were going to a concert. I don't really drink beer (It's so bitter! I just do not understand it. As I think I made clear yesterday, I make up for it in other ways.), and the arena didn't sell wine, so I was planning to be the designated driver. But then the headlight in my car went out, and there wasn't time to replace it, and driving with one headlight out on St Patrick's Day is like ASKING for a DUI, so we had to switch cars. And my friend's car is a stick-shift. And I don't know how to drive stick.

It's one of those things that has just...never really come up. I keep meaning to, and once I had another friend whose car is stick try to teach me, but I never really got there. And I do (and want to continue to do) a lot of traveling, and, outside the US, cars with standard transmissions are like, half as expensive to rent. Heck, a standard car costs less to buy new, even in the US! 

I'm not exactly sure what my plan is for this one - nobody I know who's local drives a standard (Even my stepdad's porsche is, weirdly, an automatic.), so I have no idea where I think I'm going to find one to practice on. But, again, it's one of those things like riding a bike where, in an emergency, I do not want to be incapable. (I am not sure what kind of bike emergency I think I'm going to encounter, but you never know.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thing Eleven: I like to have a Martini...

I've been thinking I need to have a signature drink.

Well. No, that's not true. I have a signature drink: it's a Sidecar (1 part Cointreu, 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts Cognac). But honestly, I am poor, and I go to dive bars. Bartenders mostly stare at me in confusion when I ask for one.

And, yes, I drink a lot of wine. And margaritas. And mojitos! But wine can be hit or miss, and you have to drink a LOT to get a buzz, margaritas are awkward if you're dancing, and plenty of places don't stock mint, and so can't make a mojito.

So I think I need something else. Something like...rum and coke. Or gin and tonic. Something easy to order, which everyone understands. But not either of those things, because I don't like coke, and I've been instructed not to drink gin by my neurologist. (Juniper is neurotoxic, so gin is actually the most damaging to your brain of all the liquors!) So I have to find something else. Ideally something clear, because who am I kidding about my ability not to spill it on myself?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thing Ten: Miss Manners Suggests

I don't like shopping from wedding registries. I mean, yes, I get that the couple likes to be able to choose their own china patterns, and they shouldn't have to deal with the fact that I, personally, think everyone should have extremely brightly colored towels, but I just think it's so boring. I mean...I know they can see what's been bought, and they'll know how much I spent, and it's just awful. I'm much more into finding antiques, or making something, or doing both of those things. Like, for example: Danielle, my oldest friend (by which I mean the friend I have been friends with the longest, not the friend who is actually the oldest), got married last September. I gave her and her husband Matt this:

Yeah. That's an antique steamer trunk, from the 1880s. I spent weeks refinishing the interior, and then brought it to her parent's house a couple of days before the wedding.

My friend Jennie and David got married eleven months before that. I gave, I'm pretty sure I brought them home a really nice photo album from my trip to Italy, and gave them that, but their REAL present, the present that I started planning almost a year in advance, was a quilt. I got their family and close friends to draw pictures on plain cotton squares, and mail them back to me, and I collected them, and I cut out all the patches for the bits in between...and then I started my thesis. So they sat. And they sat. And they sat and sat and sat, and I moved them (twice!), and now they're in a box in my storage unit.

And I know that they say that you have a year to send a wedding gift, but their second anniversary is only six months away, so I am WELL PAST that deadline. And it's going to take me months to do this thing, not least of all because I am not exactly an expert quilter. By which I mean I have never made a completed full-sized quilt. So this one is going to be...a challenge. But I am determined! David graduates from dental school next month, and they're moving home, and I am GOING to finish this quilt and bring it to them in their new house. It shall be done!

Thing Nine: Bird on a Wire

Fair warning: these are not all going to be as deep and laudable as my efforts with Joyce and Homer. I'm coming up with things I meant to do, not things that I feel I ought to do as a citizen of the world. I mean...some of the things are hopefully going to be "citizen of the world" type things. But more of them are going to be silly.

So the thing is, I have bad taste in television. Not all the time! I have watched some really good shows! I watched Veronica Mars from the very beginning, and I caught every episode of Freaks & Geeks, despite Fox  airing them at a different time every week for the whole run. And I've seen Dexter, and Arrested Development, and a few others that critics are always talking about. But I have also seen every episode of Whitney. And I watched All My Children and Degrassi Junior High for YEARS. Years and years. I remember Drake from when he was just Jimmy, not even Wheelchair Jimmy!

But I have a few glaring gaps in my televisual canon. And I think it's probably time to address them. Here's the five most egregious omissions:
  • The Wire - Yeah, I know. But I was dirt-poor when it first came on, and I totally didn't have HBO. And I'm weird about things like that - if I miss the beginning, I have to wait until it's over, and then watch the whole thing in a marathon.
  • Deadwood - This one's going to have to wait until after I leave my gran's. I doubt she's going to be down with hearing the word "cocksucker" as much as I know Al Swearengen uses it.
  • The Tudors - How did I skip this gorgeous costume drama? No cable at school. But its time has come.
  • Battlestar Galactica - I know, I know, I'm the worst geek ever. I was busy with Doctor Who at the time! But the Doctor doesn't come back until autumn, and that's plenty of time to get caught up with Starbuck and Apollo.
  • The Sopranos - I KNOW. I know I am from New Jersey. I know that I know dudes just like Tony Soprano. I just...didn't ever make it happen.
That's literally hundreds of hours of television. And that doesn't include the stuff on my regular roster that I'm going to be trying to keep up - stuff like the Doctor, and Shameless, and, yes, even the crap. (You guys, Criminal Minds is so good. By which I mean, the dudes are SO HOT.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thing Eight: Just Like Riding...

So let me start by saying that I didn't mean to skip posting yesterday, but I spilled boiling water on my foot, and it got a huge burn/blister, and I had to spend basically the whole day dealing with that.

With that in mind: yeah, I'm REALLY clumsy. Like...really, really clumsy. Which I know I talked about in the headstand post, but, seriously, guys, I'm almost thirty. I should not cripple myself making pasta.

And the interesting thing about it, is that people often don't quite believe me. Partially because it's not like I'm with them when I do things like spill boiling water on my foot, but also because, seriously, they think, how clumsy can you possibly be?

This clumsy: I cannot ride a bicycle.

You know that saying, "It's just like riding a bike"? I have no idea what that means. I mean, I get what it's SUPPOSED to mean, which is that once you learn how to do something, you always know how to do it, even if a lot of time has passed?

But I didn't ever REALLY learn how to ride a bike. I mean, sure, when I was six or seven I did the thing where your dad runs behind you and then lets go (although my dad did that with me on a hill, because he is insane), but I never really mastered it.

And then, one day, I was riding my little training-wheeled bike along the sidewalk, and I lost control, and I hit an overflow outspout for the storm drain. You know, those little metal things that poke up out of the devil's strip, between the sidewalk and the street, and when it rains really heavily, sometimes the water shoots up out of it? Yeah, I hit that with my front wheel.

The crash was...epic. I broke a couple of ribs, I had a handlebar-shaped bruise on my chest for LITERALLY six months, and I never got on a bike again.

Until 2007. When, as an adult who had not ridden a bike in WELL OVER fifteen years, I went to Monet's house and garden at Giverny with some friends. And we decided it was a charming idea to rent bikes at the train station and bike the rest of the way to the house.


Yeah, I ended up walking my bike there, with an awesome scratch all down one shin. I had to get a taxi to take me AND the bike back to the station. It was wretched.

But, seriously, it's not okay to not know how to do this, right? I mean, I'm never going to start using a bike as my main form of transportation (I get weirdly enraged at city bicyclists, because I think most of them flagrantly disregard the rules of the road, but also I am terrified of the idea of being on a bike near a bunch of cars), but I should be able to do it if I have to, right? Like, if I ever got on The Amazing Race, I wouldn't want my team to lose because I can't ride a bicycle, and you KNOW there is always a bike-riding challenge. And what if I have a kid of my own one day, and it needs to learn how to ride? So this year, it's happening: I am going to learn how to competently ride a bicycle for at least a mile.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thing Seven: A Price Above Rubies

I'm a total Wizard of Oz fangirl. I have read all the books (fourteen by L.Frank Baum, dozens by other authors, including his great-grandson, who signed my copy of The Cowardly Lion of Oz when I met him), I own the movie, I've seen stage versions (including, naturally, Wicked), I've been Dorothy Gale for Halloween more than once. So the ruby slippers at the Smithsonian's American History Museum are naturally a draw.

And here's the thing: they're really just hand-sequinned, low-heeled pumps. Pumps like the ones you can get at any bridal store and have dyed to match your bridesmaid's dress. And it would take a long time, but...I could definitely cover a pair of those shoes in sequins. Halloween is coming again soon (it's "soon" in April when you are crazy, but...I am crazy, so there you go), and Dorothy is always a good choice of costume...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thing Six: Harping On

For my 26th birthday, I bought myself an autoharp. This is the point where a lot of people say, "A what now?" An autoharp. It's an instrument used commonly in Appalachian/folk/bluegrass type music. Sort of like a dulcimer. You press down keys which mute some of the strings, and then you strum and pick the rest, and it's very melodious. June Carter Cash played one. I thought it was a good instrument to get, because not many people play them anymore, and I like the idea of preserving folk traditions like that where I can.

I know, how hipster is that?

Except that I really got it because I am hopeless at guitar, and I was hoping I could do a little better with the autoharp, which requires a less arthritis-triggering hand position.

So I bought a little tuning tool, and I got it all tuned up, and...I left it in a closet for four years.

I mean, not really, I would pull it out every now and again and strum it, and say, "Ooh, this really does seem to be up my alley." But I never really settled down to learn how to play it right.

But I am absolutely not moving it in and out of another living situation without learning to play it. It's ridiculous that I have an old-timey-jug-band instrument and I don't know how to play it. If I'm going to own a hipster instrument, I am at least going to be authentic enough to actually know how to play it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thing Five: Sketchy

So, like I said in Thing Two, I've been sewing for a very, very long time now. And, unsurprisingly, I design a lot of my own stuff. And some of it is, if I do say so myself, quite good. My Halloween costumes are epic. They usually involve using other people as props. (It doesn't make sense to be a Queen of Hearts without an Alice and a Mad Hatter, so I cajoled my friends Jennie and David into letting me make them costumes. They are not the only ones who I have convinced to do this kind of thing.)

But, as I implied in Thing Four, where I complained that I will never win Top Chef: My House without a decent omelette, I watch a lot of creative competitive reality tv, and oh MAN do I want to be on Project Runway. Y'all don't even know. But the thing is, just like how you can always count on Restaurant Wars on Top Chef, you can always, always count on some kind of challenge on PR where the designers have to sketch something and present it to someone.

And I cannot sketch to save my life. Seriously, the people who play Draw Something with me already know this, but my drawings are terrible. Nothing's in proportion, all the people have the same basic bodies as the characters from Peanuts, and, you know, I love Lucy van Pelt deeply, but that little dress she wears is not going to be impressing Michael, Nina, and Heidi, to say nothing of Tim Gunn, who would obviously be "concerned".

It's interesting - I can visualize something in my head, and I can draft the pattern pieces to make that thing, and the thing in my head and the thing I end up with are almost always the same thing, but the step in between? Where I show someone else what I'm thinking? That part is unfortunate. And the thing is...unless one is going to make everything on spec, and then just hope someone buys it, sketching is really important.

So I've decided it's time to practice my drawing skills. This whole brain-to-garment thing is holding me back.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thing Four: Without Breaking A Few Eggs

I'm bad at breakfast.

For one thing, I am not a morning person, like, at all, and I will choose an extra twenty minutes of sleep over all manner of morning tasks - makeup, breakfast, a reasonable hairstyle...being a hungry, disheveled, washed out mess is well worth hitting the snooze button for me.

Second of all, I take a medication that requires me to wait a full hour after taking it before I eat anything. So that's kind of difficult, particularly in conjunction with the whole more-sleep-is-worth-anything issue.

And thirdly, a lot of it just weirds me out. I do not understand maple syrup. I find the impulse to eat a ton of sugar immediately after awakening totally bizarre. And I don't eat pork at all, and I certainly don't eat weird ground-up pork products like sausage, and I find it even stranger that some people put syrup on their meats? I don't know. The whole thing is very alarming to me.

But I like eggs! And they're healthy, because they're full of protein. And I've been trying to more eggs. So first I started baking eggs inside avocados, and that was GREAT, but it takes a really long time for them to cook, and, you know see above re: sleep. So then I thought I would maybe try something faster, and I fried up some eggs, and they were also delicious, but they were really...just eggs. And that didn't feel very well-balanced. So then I decided I'd make an omelette, with some veggies in it? Or some scrambled eggs with some stuff stirred through it.

But I am apparently incapable of scrambling eggs/making a fluffy omelette. I know what to do in theory, with the adding of the milk or water, and the stirring, and then the more stirring once they're in the pan, but they just turn into...broken up fried eggs? It's very confusing! And I feel like a kitchen failure, not being able to make something so basic! I mean, I can make a lot of really complicated stuff, like meringues and Beef Wellington and fondue, but I can't make an omelette? I will never win Top Chef: My House that way, there's ALWAYS an omelette challenge!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thing Three: Head Over Heels

So this is not going to come as a surprise to...anyone who has ever met me, even once, but I am not at ALL athletically gifted. I'm an okay dancer, but beyond that it gets really ugly. I have tripped on particularly thick patches of air.

So I'm sure nobody is surprised to hear that when, as a fifth grader, our gym class did a gymnastics unit, I was just egregiously terrible at it. Could I do a cartwheel? No, I could not. Could I walk across a balance beam? Clearly not. I could, just about, do a somersault, but even that was crooked and horrible.  

But the worst - the very worst - was the headstand. And the reason it was the worst was because I was very nearly there. Seriously, I got up, I held it for a tenth of a second...and then I came crashing down. And my feet, in their adorable little Keds, slipped right into the gap between the mats, slamming my poor toes into the linoleum-over-concrete floor. I broke two toes, and was out of gym for the next several weeks.

But you guys, I really want to do a headstand. If nothing else, it will make feel like a yoga badass.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thing Two: Under the Wire

I learned to sew when I was three. My mother and grandmother put a needle in my hand as soon as they were reasonably sure I wouldn't try to eat it. Since then, I've made a ridiculous assortment of things - doll clothes, skirts, dresses, corsets, ten-by-fifteen foot tapestries, twelve-by-twenty-five foot replicas of buildings - but I've never made a bra.

This is unusual. Firstly, because I am evangelical about the importance of having a really good bra that fits perfectly and comfortably, and secondly because in my experience, it IMPOSSIBLE to find one of those commercially. Seriously, for the last ten years I've been buying my bras from Europe, sporting weird pressure marks and injuries from too-long wires and popped hooks. And don't even get me started on trying to figure out what to do with a dress with a remotely low neckline or any kind of strap, because that is a nightmare. I mean, the answer turned out to be the aforementioned corsets,'s not a good answer, because they are very hard to dance in.

There is no good reason that I haven't tried to make a bra. I mean, the ones I buy cost $80, so if I cannibalized the old ones for some of the wires, I could probably save a pretty penny. And Foundations Revealed has an awesome series on how to make your own bras, so it's not like I don't have the information. I think it's doable.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thing One: Ulysses & Ulysses

I like to think of myself as well-read. I've done Gone With the Wind, and The Great Gatsby, Moby-Dick and The Scarlet Letter, most of Dickens, all of Austen, all three Bront√ęs, and a fair whack at Wharton, James, Hemingway, Hawthorne, etc.

But Joyce has stymied me. I tried, I really did - I was assigned A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a senior in high school, but 1) I was basically all set with assigned reading by that point, having already suffered through Lord of the Flies, 2) I was basically all set with high school at that point, having already been admitted to college, and 3) Chapter three. Holy god, chapter three is a beast. Stephen experiences the agonies of hell while sitting in a church!  I just couldn't, you guys.

So even though everyone I know keeps telling me that I should love Joyce, and even though Ulysses was named the best novel of all time a while ago, I just couldn't do it. But you know what, I should love Joyce, and, more pressing, a friend of mine needs to read Ulysses for her thesis, and so I am finally going to bite the bullet and read it. I'm making the commitment here. This Bloomsday (June 16th), I am going to either have read or be reading Ulysses. Hoping for the former, accepting that the latter is probably more likely.

Speaking of Ulysses, and speaking of things it is utterly shameful that I have not read: The Odyssey.  Seriously, you guys. I was a Folklore and Mythology concentrator in college. I have cited The Odyssey dozens if not hundreds of times, not least of all because of Penelope, who is basically my spirit animal. I've made arguments about the communal nature of weaving based solely on the stories of Circe and Calypso, reasoning that it wouldn't be mentioned that they were both weaving solitarily unless that was unusual. But have I ever read it all the way through? I have not. It's terrible.

So since I'm reading one Ulysses, I figured I should get both my Ulysseses(?) taken care of.

So that's Thing One: fill the gaps in my Ulysses-related reading.

30 days

I realized, yesterday, that in 30 days I will be 30 years old.

This seems, somehow, simultaneously very old and very young.

I mean, I can't imagine that I'm actually going to be 30, because generally I feel about fifteen, and most people think I'm about twenty four. This is not to say that I think I'm some gorgeous young thing - the fifteen year old me in my head is really awkward, and the twenty four year old me in other people's heads is probably just because I wear a lot of sunscreen, and thus have very smooth, unlined skin. But I took sort of an unusual path, and so, at almost-thirty, I find myself just graduated from college and trying to start a career. So the idea that I am not some young thing with all the time in the world is difficult for me to process, because...well, all the people who are in the same point in their lives as I am are twenty three, so why can't I be twenty three?

But then, on the other hand, I live with my grandmother, who is 85, and let me tell you: the woman has sweaters that are older than I am. We had lunch a couple of weeks ago with a woman she's been friends with for seventy two years. Seventy. Two. Years.  So looking at it that way, I am still pretty young, you know?

But anyway: thirty. It's a thing, for sure. I mean, if this were Logan's Run, the dot on my hand would start blinking any time now.  So I've decided there are some things that I should do, things that I have, over the course of the last thirty years of my life, meant to do, and then never did. I'll come up with one a day for the next month, and then, once I really am thirty, I'll do them. Because thirty years is long enough to wait.