Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Don't Tell

So this is just between you and me, but I'm thinking about breaking up with my imaginary boyfriend. There have been reports of not-so-nice behavior in NYC and he is still hanging out with that Jennifer beeyotch. It just might be time to move on.

So what do you think? Should I . . . .

A. Stay with the current imaginary boyfriend?

B. Go back to my ex-imaginary boyfriend? He's cleaned himself up a bit and is working steadily, although I think most of the movies will be straight-to-DVD.

C. Start dating Josh Charles? I just watched both seasons of Sports Night and have learned that JC is an O's fan so I'm a little bit in love.

D. Start dating Josh Lucas? And, yes, I do have a definite type.

Unfortunately, my first choice for next imaginary boyfriend got his wife knocked up again and I'm no homewrecking, trailer-trash Britney. And, no, I'm not referring to K-Fed as a possible crush. Ick! Ick! Ick! I was just making a comparison.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Thursday, May 25, 2006

On the Pile

Finished: The Omnivore’s Dilemma. For some reason I have a total hang-up about the article in the title. I keep substituting “an.” But regardless of my article issues, this is an outstanding book. Like many of the current journalists-cum-anthropologists, Pollan occasionally gets bogged down in the minutia of his own curiosity, wanting to fit in every little scrap of information he learned, but overall it’s an engaging---and eye-opening--look at the American food system. Of course, now I’m even more confused when I go to the grocery store. Oh, and the author is such a nice guy. Had a great interview with him yesterday, which you can read all about over here.

Also finished Vampire Loves, which is cute in a twenty-something-angst-played-out-by-monsters sort of way. Don’t we all feel like a lonely, conflicted creature of the night sometimes?

Currently Reading: Nothing! Well, if we want to be literal, anyway. I finished Omnivore’s Dilemma late on Tuesday night and haven’t started anything new. But I’ll be picking up either Persepolis 2 or This Voice in My Heart by Gilbert Tuhabonye. The latter is by a local runner who is from Burundi and is the sole survivor of a horrific massacre related to the Rwandan genocide. And I really, really want to start either The Hero with a Thousand Faces or The Great Transformation. Because I'm convinced that at least one of them has the answer.

On Deck: Yay for long weekends! Some of these might finally move up from this pile. Although I also have a craft book round-up to write. And fiction just isn't doing it for me lately. I've been much more interested in reading nonfiction. But I have good intentions to soon read Theft, Digging to America, and Voodoo Heart.

Added to the Pile:

The Accidental by Ali Smith (Finally! It’s been on my library reserve list for six months.)
American Dream by Jason DeParle
Burning Rainbow Farm by Dean Kuipers

Friday, May 19, 2006

SuperSize Me!

Remember my obsession with absurdly supersized snack foods?

It didn't go away. So this past weekend, I made my very own Pimped-Out Peanut Butter Cup.

The Ingredients

3 11.5-oz bags of milk chocolate chips
1 18-oz jar of creamy peanut butter
A whole lotta confectioner's sugar (I think I used about a quarter of the bag)

The Process

First I lined a tart pan with parchment paper. Then I melted 2 bags of chocolate chips in the microwave and stirred them well for a nice, smooth milk chocolate base. I spread the melted chocolate and put it in the fridge to cool.

Once the chocolate was solid, I mixed together the peanut butter and confectioner's sugar. I used way too much of both; I wound up with twice as much filling as I needed, so I made chocolate-covered peanut-butter balls with the rest. Also, in the future, even though it takes a lot of muscle, I would recommend mixing this the old-fashioned way: with a spoon. I used a hand mixer on the lowest setting and I'm still finding peanut-butter filling in all sorts of fun places.

I spread the filling over the chocolate, then melted another bag of chips, stirred, and spread that over the filling.

Then the whole thing went back into the fridge. And it came out like this:

Unfortunately, the parchment negated the point of the tart pan: I didn't get the ridges. And I probably should have spread the top a little more smoothly. But you try spreading chocolate smoothly over peanut butter!

It's a little hard to eat; I had to let it soften at room temperature for about half an hour before I could get a knife through it. But it is yummy!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I got the graduate advisor I wanted! Prof. H. specializes in human rights, humanitarian intervention, and Africa. Yay!

Now, a question: Prof. H. has written a book. The book is not available at the Austin Public Library (imagine me not surprised). I'd like to read it before I get to campus in the fall, but the only way to do that is to buy the book. And I've sworn off buying any books not required for school. A resolution I've actually managed to keep (although my therapist insists that magazines are books and admittedly some of the lit journals---Paris Review, Granta, VQR---are debatable).

Does this fall under the school allowance? Dear bloggers, Am I allowed to buy this book?

On the Pile

First, some shameless self-promotion: I've got new reviews on Austinist.

Finished: Deogratias by J.P. Stassen. An excellent, no-holds-barred look at the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. May be a little confusing if you don’t know much about the genocide.

But I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Read We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. Stop whatever you are doing and READ THIS BOOK. Take a few days off work and READ THIS BOOK.

Currently Reading: The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan’s writing style reminds me a lot of Jared Diamond---rambling, folksy, a bit verbose in spots. But he has an interesting mind---the way it veers from one topic to the next, linking ideas together in an intricate but logical web, sort of like a hyperlinked brain---and a unique way of describing things---comparing driving a tractor in rich soil to sailing a boat through chocolate.

Also reading Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar. A fun read. The vampire's exgirlfriend is hilarious (“I didn’t leave you. I just cheated on you. If you hadn’t found out, there wouldn’t have been any problem.”), although I’ve found that it’s best enjoyed in small chunks; there’s only so much moping and self-pity I can handle from someone who’s not me.

On Deck: Theft, Digging to America, and Persepolis 2.* I think. Although I got a new Armstrong book and it is taking all my willpower not to take a couple days off work, put all else aside, and read that.

Added to the Pile: Lots of stuff!

The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong (and how much do I LOVE my contact at Knopf; she sent me an autographed copy!)
It Might Have Been What He Said by Eden Collinsworth
Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert
Tales of the Slayer by Joss Whedon
A Contract With God by Will Eisner
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Palestine by Joe Sacco
The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

*Marjane Sartrapi has a new book coming out in October!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hey Kids!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Craft Week: The Tee Shirts

Some more crafty somethingness today.

Folks, it's been a rough day. And it's only lunchtime. The badness really started last night, when my computer turned to the Blue Screen of Death and refused to work until I had uninstalled almost all my non-factory-installed programs and taken out the wireless card. Then, even though we didn't go to bed until almost 11 p.m. and I had already planned to come into work a little late because I haven't been sleeping well, Rowen decided that we still needed to get up at 5.30 a.m. And she was rather adamant about it. She's usually not a morning dog. I'm usually getting her up, and then only long enough for her to move from the bedside to the relative quiet of the living room while I get washed and dressed. But apparently during the night, my dog became an early riser.

She also apparently has been training as a sled dog. Because when I took her out for her potty, she shot off, pulling me behind her. Now, I was wearing flip flops. And the grass was wet. Anyone wanna guess what happened next? Yep. Flat on my ass. In front of a maintenance worker and some guy repairing a windshield. While wearing a skirt (me, not the windshield guy), although I'm almost certain that I maintained most of my modesty.

From there, the day hasn't gotten any worse. But it hasn't gotten any better. It's dragging on and I'm tired and I'm so ready to go home.

On that oh-so-cheery note. Here's a selection of some of my experiments in tee shirt redesign, taken from Generation T.

Lisa's Fifth Rule of Crafting: Cut first, then read the directions.*

The Raw Materials:

From a plain black tee:

To a Lisa-style "punk" black tee:

And from a plain blue tee:

To a pretty-in-blue tee:

And thus endeth Craft Week. Although it isn't really the end. I still have some tees to destroy. And I have a growing pile of craft books and magazines. Best of all, I have a brand-spanking-new digital camera.**

*Although I am mathematically challenged, I can count and I realize that I skipped the third and fourth rules. They should have been posted with Penelope's Web. Third Rule of Crafting: Never finish one project before starting another. Fourth Rule of Crafting: (a) Never leave the craft shop with only the things you intended to get; (b) "Need" is always open to interpretation.

**And really, how did I ever live without it? It has a kids-and-pets setting so I can take even more Rowen pictures!.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On the Pile

We’ll take a brief pause in our Craft Week coverage to review the reading situation. And find some happy pills. Because. . . .

Finished: The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D’Ambrosio and In Night’s City by Dorothy Nelson. Neither of which is a particularly cheery book. Dead Fish Museum is a catalog of dysfunction, ranging from difficult families to women who set themselves on fire. Although there was the porn star with a heart of gold. In Night’s City is even darker---incest, abuse of all flavors, death, religion, poverty---all the elements of your typical Irish novel---and written in a loopy, stream-of-conscious style that has me questioning my own sanity. I’d recommend the D’Ambrosio; the darkness is tempered by beauty and humanity and the writing is gorgeous. I’m not sure yet about the Nelson. It’s addictive in a way---fascination of the abomination, as Conrad would say---and it moves quickly, but it’s frustrating and difficult and unsatisfying. Also finished The Lost Colony by Grady Klein, a graphic novel. Hard to follow, too broad in its humor, too obvious and simplistic in its satire, and no compelling narrative thread.

Currently Reading: Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by J. P. Stassen. I might need something stronger than happy pills.

On Deck: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is sort of hovering between this pile and the Currently Reading pile because I’m starting it tomorrow. I’m not sure what comes after this on the pile. Possibly Theft or Digging to America. I also have Poppy Shakespeare, but that takes place in a mental ward and I think I may need a break from all the dysfunction. I need to read something happy and silly.

Added to the Pile:

The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Gentleman of Leisure: A Year in the Life of a Pimp by Bob Adelman and Susan Hall
Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder
Horsemen of the Esophagus by Jason Fagone
Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar
Crafty Chica’s Art de la Soul by Kathy Cano Murillo

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Penelope's Web: The Yarn Pile*

Let us pause during Craft Week to recognize all the crafts that have yet to be made, all the good intentions and the big ideas and the impulse buys.

This is a pillow that I started in February 2004.

This is a book cozy that I started last summer for a coworker. I actually did finish the cozy, but my measurements were a "little" off (as in, you could have wrapped the OED in it).

I can't even remember what I bought this yarn for.

I bought this yarn to make an afghan for my parents for Christmas. 2004. I did eventually make an afghan for this past Christmas, but I used different yarn.

I bought this yarn in January so I'd have plenty of time to make the afghan that I'm giving my sister for her wedding. I still haven't cast on and the wedding is in less than three months.

This was supposed to be my uncle's Christmas gift. I did eventually finish it after I took this photo. I finished it in March.**

A few months ago, I got all excited about knitting dishcloths and bought a bunch of yarn to make them.

I did eventually use the purple yarn to make these:

*In The Odyssey, Penelope is pursued by hundred of suitors wanting to take the place of the presumed-dead Odysseus. Penelope puts them off by agreeing to pick one after she has weaved her father-in-law's death shroud. And so she spends each day at her loom. But each night, she sneaks into the loom room and unravels her work from that day, thus extending her decisionmaking indefinitely. The term Penelope's Web refers to projects that are never completed.

**Careful readers may note that I said that I took these photos before completing the scarf in March. That is, I took these photos nearly three months ago and am just now getting around to posting them. Oh, and in keeping with the theme, I still have piles of other unfinished crafts to photograph but I never finished this project, either.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More Crafty Fun

Craft week continues . . .

Remember my first rule of crafting? Well, I fully obeyed it during a Saturday trip to The Work*Shop, a sort of paint-your-own-pottery place but much more fun. You can paint pottery. Or you can make mosaics, play with beads, mix bath lotions and potions, paint glass, do decoupage . . . It's like art camp for adults.

For this project, I had a partner in crime: Lora. I also had help from The Work*Shop's proprietor (Cynthia). They helped me pick colors and solve paint crises and so forth. But they couldn't save me from myself.

In keeping with the first rule of crafting, I decided that I would decorate a pencil box with a combination of paint and mosaic.

My second rule of crafting: Logic has no place in crafting.

Because logic would tell us that before starting a project, we should gather all our materials together and make sure we have what we need. You know, like the right paint colors. But I prefer to launch right into the project and cross my bridges when I come to them. Logic would also tell us that if we can't draw a straight line or paint in a straight line, then maybe stripes aren't the best design choice.

But I'm a rule-abiding kind of girl. So ignoring the fact that I didn't have the right shade of blue or that I can't do anything in a straight line, I forged ahead.

The finished box! Please note once again how much I hate Walgreens. Because this originally was a picture of the entire box.

Lora is not a Rules Girl; she insists on making simple-yet-beautiful projects that are carefully planned. Silly Lora.

Lora's finished lightswitch plate. So pretty!

Stay tuned for more crafty fun.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Picture Day!

Yep, I made my semiannual trip to get photos developed. And Walgreens didn't destroy all of them. Fortunately the one's from Rowen's graduation came out okay. In January, she completed her Intermediate Class.

Yes, I do know what a terrible mom I am that I've only just developed the pictures.

The Graduate:

After graduation was playtime with the trainer's dog, Sadie Mae. Rowen launches a frontal attack:

And Rowen pins her!

And then offers her head to Sadie as a consolation prize:

Nap Time:

Craft Week!

So my crafty weekend turned into a full crafty week. It all started with the arrival of a collection of craft books for review. And how can I possibly review a craft book without trying some of the crafts!

Among the books: Generation T by Megan Nicolay. Much of her stuff is a little too edgy for me (and a little too revealing!). But I decided to try my hand at a few projects.

My First Rule of Craft is "Always Make a Simple Project As Complicated As You Can." So I decided to try "salvaging" a few stained t-shirts with a dye bath.

The Raw Materials:

The Method:

The Results:

I attempted to make one of the blue shirts as a tie-dye, but the twine fell off during the washing cycle. Oops. I also learned some valuable lessons about dying material:

*Dye does not hide stains. Especially grease stains and pit stains. Not to get too TMI on you, but well, I sweat. I don't glow or perspire or whatever. I sweat. And despite wearing deodorant and showering regularly, my white shirts tend to have a short lifespan. I thought I could salvage a few of those shirts, but instead of hiding the stained areas, the dye accentuated them.

*Do not---I repeat, do not!---use dark dyes (like purple) in your washing machine. Especially if that machine is a rental. Because that dye will splatter and permanently stain the lid and loading area of the machine. And several hours of scrubbing with boiling water and bleach will not get rid of the stains.

*Remove everything in a five-foot radius of the dye area. Because even though you theoretically have the dye sealed in the washing machine, it will find a way to splatter out of the machine. I did the blue shirts first and then hung them above the washing machine while I did the purple shirt. The blue shirts are now speckled with purple.

In the end, the purple shirt was the only one to come out in a wearable condition. So I did my first remaking experiment with one of the blue shirts.

From a tee-shirt:

To a tee-vest:

More to come soon!

P.S. Please excuse the absolutely crappy photo quality. Part of it is my fault for not photographing under the best conditions. But most of it is Walgreen's fault for completely effing up my roll of film.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Last night, I had to smear permethrin from head to toe to treat the scabies that still haven’t gone away since I picked up a mangy stray a month ago.* Applying the cream took for-ev-er. And admittedly, I have quite a bit of body mass to cover.** But this got me thinking, “How do women do this type of thing every night?” Because some women go through a similar routine every night. They slather on creams and lotions and exfoliants every night. It’s got to take them at least an hour to get ready for bed. I need about 10 minutes: wash my face, pluck a few stray hairs, brush my teeth.

Now, growing up, I considered myself to be kind of a girly girl. I wasn’t super feminine---more like super feminist!---but I didn’t play sports (mostly because I sucked at them), I liked dresses and ribbons and makeup, I had crushes and posted pictures from Tiger Beat on my wall. I hated Barbie but I desperately wanted a My Little Pony. I spent my allowance on Bonnie Bell make-up kits and puffy, sparkly stickers for my sticker book. I wanted to be a ballerina or a model.

But I’ve grown into a rather low-maintenance girl. I get my hair cut every six months and only have two styling products. I like pretty clothes, but I hate shopping, and I usually stick to classic, comfortable styles (of course, with my weight right now, I hate all clothes because nothing looks good). My highest heel is about 2-inches, and I haven’t worn those in about four years. The closest I come to cleavage is a v-neck t-shirt. I admire pretty underthings, but I can’t bring myself to get them because they seem so impractical and I can’t really justify the price (it’s not like anyone else is seeing them). I don’t understand the thong. I do have a rather crowded make-up drawer (although I’ve got nothing on LostInTexas!), but mostly from samples or leftovers from misguided attempts to make myself into something I’m not. My morning routine is straightforward and simple: wash my face, brush my teeth, put on a light foundation and blush, and pull my hair back into a ponytail or a messy bun. Most days I manage to add eyeliner and eye shadow to that mix, and some days I slap some generic lotion onto my legs. I use a 2-in-1 shampoo and whatever shower gels I’ve gotten for Christmas (I usually get enough to last me a year). Please just don’t even look at my nails or my feet. They are woefully neglected.

Living in Austin lets me get away with a very casual wardrobe, so most days I wear a t-shirt and jeans, shorts, or a denim skirt with flip flops or mules. I can’t remember the last time I wore dress slacks---or a dress, for that matter.

But last night got me wondering: Am I normal? Have I given up on looking nice? Have I gone butch (not in that way---I still prefer boys)? Should I be doing more? What do other women do? Is this the reason I’m still single? Do men want a high-maintenance girl?

Part of this comes from my year in Africa: When you have nothing but cold showers for weeks on end and have to do all your laundry by hand, you change your outlook on hygiene. And when you see that much poverty, you change your mind on how much you’ll pay for shoes that will be out of style next year.

Part of me wonders, though: Am I too low maintenance?

*The stray is now named Nino and living with one of my coworkers. He’s growing like a weed and having a great time playing with a couple of kids in a backyard.
**Just indulge me in my pity party. I’ve been in a funk all week and got very little sleep last night thanks to a crazy storm and an itchy rash.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On the Pile

So people are selling their copies of Kaavya Viswanathan’s book on Amazon and Ebay for nearly $100. Is this really a collector’s item? And how unethical would it be for me to put my review copy up for auction? Any offers?

And here’s another question that perhaps Liz can answer: When a book is recalled for plagiarism, do libraries return their copies?

And how does one get one of those book packaging deals? Because I’ve got notebooks filled with ideas---I just don’t have the discipline to write a book myself.

Anyway . . . My latest review---of A Map of Glass---is up at Austinist. And here’s what else I’m reading.

Finished: Fray, as well as two other Buffy comics---Ring of Fire and Note from the Underground. I enjoyed Fray---beautiful artwork, great story, interesting twist on the Slayer mythology. The other two were rather meh. They didn’t quite capture the cadence or feel of the television show. Hasn't been a big reading week because I've been working on lots of craftyish projects.

Currently Reading: The Dead Fish Museum and Other Stories, which so far is very good. I really think short stories are much harder to write than novels. And these are very good short stories. Also reading a pile of craft books---Generation T, Subversive Cross Stitch, Kitschy Crafts, The Craftster Guide to Nifty, Thrifty, and Kitschy Crafts---for an upcoming craft-book round-up. As part of the review process, I’m trying out some of the projects from each book. The photo documentation is coming soon!

On Deck: An Omnivore’s Dilemma is still on this pile, but it’s been bumped back by Lion’s Honey and In Night’s City.* I’m also itching to get to Persepolis 2. And someday I’ll finally read A Problem From Hell, which I’ve borrowed from the library countless times. I’m also eventually going to finish The Spiral Staircase.

Added to the Pile: I gave the Austin Public Library a break this week, and it was a quiet week for review books. So nothing new on the pile.

*As an aside, Barnes & Noble needs to do some serious proofing on its Web site. I've noticed a lot of book titles that are incorrectly listed. Hey, B&N! If you're reading this, call me!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I'm Here

I'm alive. I just haven't had a thing to write about. Really. I'm working on an extensive photo documentary of my adventures in craftiness but because I'm the last person on earth to get a digital camera,* I have to use up the roll of film and get it developed before I can do my post.

Other than that, it's been a lot of the same old stuff: reading a lot, hanging out with my crazy puppy and trying to talk myself out of getting another one, wondering whether it really would be worse to live with my mother than to stay at my current job for another 53 work days, rationalizing not going to the gym, justifying my desserts, dreaming of someday being a writer but not actually doing any writing (other than book reviews and blog entries), gloating over the downfall of a certain teenage writer, slobbering over my imaginary boyfriend and his possible successors, playing Hey! It's That Guy! while watching Season 5 of CSI (Sark! Ed Danvers! A DeLuise!), telling myself that I really should do some laundry and maybe clean the bathroom but not actually doing anything, playing Pictionary over at Quiet in the Stacks . . . . You know, my usual oh-so-exciting life.

So I'll put it to you, dear blog friends: What should I write about? Give me a topic. Ask me a question. You name it, I'll write about it. Because I've been coming up empty on topics for weeks now.

*Soon to change. My shiny new Canon A430 was shipped today.