Adventures in Cooking

June 26, 2012

Note to self: a lot of butter does not a non-stick pan make. My omelette is now scrambled eggs…

Trying to teach myself to cook before I’m living on my own may be useless. Perhaps I should redirect me efforts to packing… Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve learned this lesson many times before. Oh well.

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Retail Pre-therapy

June 24, 2012

Yesterday ended up being a bit of a shopping day for me.

I got new glasses a few weeks ago, but realized that both pairs were really simple, verging on boring looking, so today my dad took me to his “place.” He touted it as this great place where they have snazzy glasses and they can look at you and figure out what shape will look good on your face. I was skeptical, but… (and I hate to admit it) he was right. I found a pair that I like a lot more. I’m going to keep one of the original pairs I got as a “back up” in case something unfortunate were to befall my specs, but the other pair will go back.

After that, I got a Thai yoga massage. My aunt is a massage therapist and recently took a class in thai yoga massage, so she needed to practice. I told her she can practice on me anytime!

Then we went to some stores and I got drinking glasses for my new apartment, a lamp, some tiny pails for decoration, and a set of sheets (and a bottle of seltzer). I’m getting into decorating mode, which is very exciting, but I think I’ve blocked out the part where I have to actually pack all of my stuff. I have so much stuff to pack, it’s kind of overwhelming. And so many books… Somehow I don’t think denial and avoidance will work in this situation. Maybe I’m buying things to avoid thinking about it? Retail pre-therapy?

Also… packing will really cut into my sitting around/reading time. Alas.

 

I recently finished reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

It follows the elderly Major Ernest Pettigrew as he takes stock of his life and attempts to cultivate an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali — a widowed shopkeeper of Pakistani heritage — in an unfriendly environment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The Major and Mrs. Ali were endearing as characters, and even Sandy and the ladies of the village had their moments. I mostly wanted to slap some sense into Roger, but I think that was Simonson’s intention.

There were points where I felt like it got a bit bogged down — like I had to sort of muddle through, but then I got past it and started enjoying the story again.

I will say that I don’t think Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is for everyone. It seems to illicit very mixed reviews and I can mostly understand why. This book doesn’t have a very solid plot. It is mostly character driven. I am perfectly OK with that in this situation, but some people need more action in the books they read, and for them, I’d say maybe skip this book.

In any case, I thought this had a nice edge of being a tad bittersweet without being melancholy. I often find that books with older protagonists lean toward the didactic side of things, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that aspect lacking.

All in all, an enjoyable and fairly easy read.

 

In other news, the lovely Heather from bitsnbooks has nominated me for an Inspiring Blogger Award, which is amazing and humbling and terrifying and lots of other adjectives, so that post will be coming in the near future once I pull my mind together enough to write it.

Success!

June 20, 2012

Yesterday was a long day.

I’m talking a wake up at 6, start driving at 7:30, get home at 20 after Midnight kind of day.

My  mother and I drove up to New York to see a few apartments. The first one was a complete bust. The apartment was OK, but the “roommate” situation was less than superb, so we moved on. We were hoping to see one or two more and I’d been told to “call any time,” but I called and left multiple messages with no response.

Before our first “appointment” of the day, we had a bit of time, so we headed to 42nd and 5th — the New York Public Library. If I was allowed, I would totally live there. I will say though, as beautiful as it is, it may have lost some of its functionality. There are some great established exhibits, but at some point I just started looking around going “where are the books?” I found them in the end though. I would have loved to stay longer, but we had to get lunch and head uptown to see the first (disappointing) apartment.

Since my other appointments appeared to have fallen by the wayside, we had some time to kill before we were supposed to see the other apartment and meet my prospective roommate and her dog. We decided to walk around and get a feel for the neighborhood. We sat on a bench in the shade until we were chased away by municipal cleaners, then went in search of a pet store to buy a toy as a peace offering/bribe for my potential canine roomie.

We headed toward Morningside Heights to wander around Columbia’s campus and sat in the shade. I bought 3 bottles of seltzer at a nearby grocery store as I was dying of thirst. Did I mention my seltzer addiction? It’s so ridiculous that I now have a seltzer machine. Yes. I’m awesome.

Anyway, after that we met up with my cousin — she’s in NY for 6 weeks studying Yiddish — for dinner and had a fun little reunion. Then it was back uptown to Harlem to see the apartment.

Much less disappointing. The kitchen and bathroom are small, but my room is a good size. The walls are colorful, and the roommate is nice and chill and I think we’ll get along pretty well. She also used the word “bibliophile,” so I take that as a good sign. Long story short: I put down a deposit and now I won’t be homeless in New York. I could move up as soon as next weekend, which is kind of terrifying because my life is not nearly together enough. So I can stop looking at Craigslist ads for apartments. Success!

English History Sagas

June 18, 2012

For a while now I’ve been reading Jean Plaidy’s series of historical fiction based on the English monarchy. I started with the Norman Conquest and have just gotten to the Tudors now. The Plantagenets took 14 books, so yeah, it’s basically a series of sagas.

The first two books in the Tudor saga: To Hold the Crown: The Story of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and Katharine the Virgin Widow haven’t thrilled me. I thought To Hold the Crown and The Sun in Splendour (the final book in the Plantagenet saga) were interesting in their portrayal of Richard III, but Plaidy skips the tumultuous period of his reign, which I found disappointing. The action of Bosworth is recounted only referred to in passing as Henry VII fights to secure his seat on the throne.

My biggest issue with Katharine the Virgin Widow (besides the title) was that most of action occurring in this book had already happened in To Hold the Crown. In a series with so many books, I expect maybe one chapter of recap, but then I want to move forward. I understand the desire to tell the story from Katharine’s point of view, but Plaidy was able to do that fairly well in the initial book, so much of this one was a simple rehashing. I enjoyed it more toward the end where there was more of a deviation from To Hold the Crown and where Plaidy was able to take readers into the political intrigue of the time. This was where I felt the characterization of Katharine and the argument for a separate book made sense.

I may have to wait a while for the next books in the series as my local library doesn’t have any of them and my current moving situation makes an inter-library loan request seem like a bad idea. Waiting until I move might be the best option, but then I’ll have to wait until I get settled and acquainted with the closest library and their inter-library loan system. I would consider buying them if there weren’t so many of them and if I wasn’t so poor. Maybe there’s a cheap box set somewhere? If I have a free moment I’ll research that…

Running for Roses

June 17, 2012

Yesterday I ran a 5K.

Perhaps “participated in a 5K” would be more a more accurate statement.

Since March I’ve been training for a 5K and yesterday was the big day — the Run for Roses 5K. I was a bit nervous because my program ended and then I got busy and kind of forgot to run for a while, so I got a bit (more) out of shape and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. In the end my mother convinced me that I put in all that work, I might as well do it.

So I dragged myself out of bed at some ungodly hour and made my way to the park. I don’t think I could have asked for better weather for this. It was a bit hot in the sun, but cool in shade — never ungodly hot, and not humid at all.

I was #424.

The next race I run, I will be better about my training. I had to walk more than I would have liked, and I finished very close to last (but not last), but I finished. And that is what is important to me. At the finish line every participant got a rose and a certificate. Everyone from my program also got a medal, so yeah, I was on top of the world when I crossed that finish line. The rose and the medal meant the most. They’re kind of symbolic, but even if I hadn’t gotten anything I would have been happy. I am honestly SO proud of myself.

There’s a book I got when I first decided I was going to start running (this blog is only 12 posts old, yet this surprises no one). It’s Running for Mortals. I read the introduction the first day I bought it, but then, as often happens, I got distracted by other books and I haven’t really progressed much farther in it. I still think I could learn a lot from it though.

When I tell people about my 5K my first instinct is to preface it with “I’m not really a runner, but…” but I’ve realized that I am a runner. I’m not a particularly fast runner, nor am I one able to run an entire 5K without walking — yet. I hate the saying “practice makes perfect,” possibly because the people who say that are often the same people who say that perfection doesn’t exist (and also possibly because I’m incredibly impatient), but I do think that practice makes better. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but it’s more accurate.

I don’t totally like running yet, but I’ll keep doing it — chasing that fabled running high — and in the process maybe I’ll get a bit healthier and learn a bit more about myself.

A Goodreads Surprise

June 12, 2012

Goodreads is a beautiful thing.

It’s really evolving and now people can recommend books, which I find useful because I can say something like “I want to read books about World War I” and people can look at that and make recommendations for me. How awesome is that? People/friends can also just suggest books they think you’d like.

So lo and behold, one day I get a book recommendation from someone I’ve known for most of my childhood (we went trick or treating together as little kids and then would go back to one of our houses and sort our haul)… and he wrote it.

In order to promote the book, he was hosting a giveaway, and I won a copy, so expect a review in the near future.

The book is Brass Legionnaire by Daniel Ottalini and you can read his blog here. I’d give you a description, but since he wrote it, I think he probably gives a better one.

I’ll just say that from the get-go I was intrigued. I’m definitely excited to read it. I have a few library books that are already overdue at the library, so I’m going to try to finish those and bang out reviews quickly, but this is otherwise at the top of my list.

Nanjing Requiem Review

June 11, 2012

Yesterday I finished reading Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin.

Even though I studied Chinese and eventually managed to take a Chinese lit course, I never actually read anything by Ha Jin, which now that I have seems like a complete oversight. I guess my class didn’t really focus on contemporary lit and focused mainly on introducing us to the Chinese literary bigwigs (Lu Xun, etc.). My professor mentioned Ha Jin, we just never read anything by him.

Anyway…

Nanjing Requiem is historical fiction. It tells the story of the Rape of Nanjing as experienced by Anling, a Chinese woman with secret ties to Japan, and Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and Dean of Jinling Women’s College. As Japanese troops descend on the city, refugees flock to Nanjing, set up as a Safety Zone, looking for just that. Jinling accepts only women and children, hoping to keep them safe from harm, but that proves to be more difficult than expected.

I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the right word to use in this case, but I thought this book was great. It was incredibly well-written and Ha Jin easily transported me to 1937 Nanjing. At times I thought certain scenes were gratuitous, but overall the writing was raw, but effective.

Now I need to read something a bit lighter. I’ve got two Jean Plaidy novels —the first in her Tudor saga — out of the library, so that should be lighter reading. I’ve also got Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand on my metaphoric reading table.

My Life

June 7, 2012

My Life

Photo blatantly stolen from http://4thefloor.tumblr.com/ because it is so damn cute and appropriate.

Driving through the city this morning I saw a street sweeper approaching a red balloon that was drifting across Florida avenue. I was driving in the opposite direction, so I didn’t get to see what happened to the lonely balloon. I’d like to think it was spared, but I’ve seen those machines in action before. There is a metaphor for childhood/reality in there just begging for someone to wax poetic, but I think I need a good cup of tea (and maybe a nap) before I embark on any poetic endeavors today.

Looking back, I keep wishing that I had my camera or the forethought to snap a picture with my phone,  but in reality I don’t think it was really much to look at. I think it has just gained some sort of visual beauty in my memory because I keep thinking about a single red balloon on a city street with a street sweeper looming over it. If only I could draw, I could recreate it….