12 August 2009

Birthdays, Pies, Jobs, Academe

Yesterday was my 24th birthday. This seems neither too old nor too young for me, but somehow the wrong age anyway. Then again, I am the girl who when quizzed on her age by strangers sometimes still accidentally answers that she is 18, an age I have had the pleasure of not being for many years now.

My birthday was good for a lot of reasons. I spent the morning at the library looking at old photos, then took a long walk. I got a card from my mother, many calls and emails from friends and family (including a priceless voicemail from my brother in which he admitted that he 1) had initially forgotten my birthday 2) didn't know how old I was at first and 3) didn't know what city I currently live in), and went out for a ridiculously delicious dinner with Bron.

The best part about my birthday is that I'm gearing up for a lot of changes. Soon I'll be leaving one of my library jobs (the unpaid one), which is sad, because I really adore the work I do there--leaving so I can have that time to work on graduate school applications, including revising my master's thesis from last summer (more on that in a moment). I've also recently quit my job at the cafe, which is somewhat less prudent financially, but personally is like a dead weight lifted from my shoulders.

I'm excited about the fall and having a little more free time (or, at least, self-scheduled time). I baked a pie last week (peach pie with cornmeal crust) and realized how little I've had time to bake in the past year.

I've been surprised as I've started looking over my research and writing for my thesis just how much I love the topic I chose, and just how much more I have to say about it. The fact that I still have so much enthusiasm for Sigurd is galvanizing--in some false small way it makes me feel justified for wanting to undertake a PhD, like my ability to resurrect enthusiasm for a project I had spent so much time on and then not looked at for months is somehow proof that I'm cut out for it. Truth is there is no way to prove that I'm cut out for anything, except to try it on, give it a good go, and see if it fits.

I'm also considering submitting an abstract, based on my thesis, to NEMLA. The deadline is at the end of September, and there is a panel on spatio-temporal shifts in 19th century literature that I think my thesis would speak to well--there's a large section in the beginning about Morris's ellision of landscape, mythos/storytelling, and past-ness that I was planning on fleshing out more.

It's just too bad I can't think of a plausible way to tie the project to the panel on "The Politics of Meat in the 19th Century Novel."

According to Bron, there are quite a few of us baby Academes-in-training who are hoping to hop to NEMLA this year. Are you?

30 June 2009

As far as bathing suits go, this one is pretty bleh--drop-waisted bathing suits flatter no one, not even this preternaturally thin Vogue illustration lady--however, all will be forgiven because CAPE!!

The pink version would be rad made up in shin vinyl, like a raincoat (raincape?), but the best part of the envelope is View B, wherein the Vogue illustrator gave up the silly notion that any woman would wear such a cape for any purpose other than to be a Bohemian French spy. She is clearly none other than Madame Clouseau on her way home from a jewel heist and clandestine tryst.

In other news, I have finished (finally) the dress I've been working on. I'd provide a photo, but I'm too lazy to get up and find the dress or the camera. It came together well, although I had to do some last minute taking in of the bust, as well as some extra bust gathers, to make it fit at the top. I had planned to cut the dress I'm making for Bronwyn today--it's a Vogue repro design and I'm doing it up in this fabric:

Yes, those are tiny books. Tiny red books. You can't see it in this picture, but they are tiny red books that have little covers reading "LABOR." It's going to go swimmingly!

22 June 2009

Re: In search of lost 19th century novelists

Woke up this morning to this post at Little Professor about lost 19th century novelists. It's a subject that comes up a lot whenever I talk to other Victorianists, but which I have only infrequently observed in earlier time periods. It's funny, though, how we (and by we I mean other Victorianists, or 19th-centurists, more broadly) think of lost vs. found. I mean, which groups are we talking about, here, anyway?

For example, Wilkie Collins. Very very popular in his day, and still instantly recognizable to the most average Brit--but rarely taught even to English majors in the states. Trollope is another good one. I rarely hear of him being on syllabi, and he appears known across the pond almost exclusively because of BBC adaptations--people have generally heard of him and have a vague idea that he is someone they should have read, but if you ask for a list of big-name 19th century novelists he is immediately squashed under DICKENS, ELIOT, HARDY, THACKERY etc. and rarely can anyone remember the titles of his novels (which is really sad, because they have excellent titles).

Elizabeth Gaskell is another of that list. I might have passed through all my undergraduate years without encountering her had it not been for Christine Cozzens excellent syllabus for a class called 'The Woman Question in Victorian Literature.' We read Ruth, which I think rarely makes it onto reading lists, overshadowed in the world of 19th-century novels about unwed mothers from the lowerish classes impregnated by rakish members of the upperish classes by Tess of the D'Ubervilles. In graduate school, I read both Sylvia's Lovers and Cranford, and it was not so much any one of them that convinced me of her talent, but the combination of all three. Each is so distinct in style and flavor--Cranford in particular is a sharp contrast in that it is nearly completely plotless, and yet is quite vibrant and readable, very funny, and seems laden with import even though the greatest plot point is a cow who wears pajamas.

So anyway, at the moment I'm reading Wives and Daughters, her last and almost-but-not-quite finished novel (I'm sort of looking forward to an unresolved end), which I have to say is pretty much blowing me away. Molly Gibson, the little heroine, is such a perfect character. She's somehow a direct descendent of both Fanny Price and Maggie Tulliver, at once obedient and dull while also managing outbursts of anger, dismay, and defiance. Gaskell's plot is reminiscent of some of the more re-used fairy tales (young, pretty daughter of widower encounters stepmother of dubious motives, stepsister of dubious morals--hijinx insue), but she layers it into a very textured world. Like Eliot, she is fond of in-jokes and jabs, a sarcastic and wry hand pervades, but she's also capable of startlingly astute scenes.

In closing, I'd like to leave y'all with this scene, which shows just how well Gaskell understands the pitfall of the fairytale plotline. Like Cinderella, or Snow White, or any of the other such girls, Molly has received the advice that to cope with her father's approaching marriage it is her responsibilty to accommodate everyone, to be good and self-effacing, to put everyone else's feelings before her own. If she is good, everything will be for the better. She responds:

"'I did try to remember what you said, and to think more of others, but it is so difficult sometimes; you know it is, don't you?'

'Yes,' he said, gravely.... 'It is difficult,' he went on,' but by and by you will be so much happier for it.'

'No, I shan't!' said Molly, shaking her head. 'It will be very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only in trying to do, and to be, as other people like. I don't see any end to it. I might as well never have lived. And as for the happiness you speak of, I shall never be happy again.'

There was and unconscious depth in what she said, that Roger did not know how to answer at the moment; it was easier to address himself to the assertion of the girl of seventeen, that she should never be happy again.

'Nonsense: perhaps in ten years' time you will be looking back on the trial as a very light one--who knows?'

'I dare say it seems foolish; perhaps all our earthly trials will apear foolish to us after a while; perhaps whey seem so now to angels. But we are ourselves, you know, and this is now, not some time to come, a long, long way off. And we are not angels, to be comforted by seeing the ends for which everything is sent.'"

14 June 2009


So, I recently purchased a copy of McCall's Complete Book of Dressmaking by Marian Corey. It's from the fifties and is completely fabo. The full color illustrations alone would be worth the paltry sum I paid for it, but the glossary and instructions are excellent--particularly since Ms. Corey clearly has a preference for hand-techniques, so a lot of the stitches and techs in the back of the book are fancy lap work (which I always prefer).

The funniest part of the book, though, is the section on how to select becoming patterns. A woman should always dress in a becoming fashion, and should avoid all things that make her unbecoming. Her advice for the short and slender is absolutely ludicrous--all of it stuff that if I tried to wear it I would look so overwhelmed and clownish. Short girls should apparently never wear short skirts--their skirts should be as long as humanly possible, and if short skirts are in fashion they should hide in shame from them until they go out of style again. We should also never wear belts at the waist, or mary jane style shoes (ok, so that last bit is something I read in Fashion Mags to this day). We should be lax about fitting the bodices of our blouses, as the extra room will disguise our lack of chestiness. Slim shoulders should be disguised by humongous puffy sleeves and copious use of shoulder pads. Our jackets should be cut as long as possible to make us look longer.

Can you imagine me in a floor-length skirt, too-big blouse with shoulder pads and puffy sleeves to my wrists, a long jacket to my knees? I would look about 2" tall.

I think the skirt needs to be a little longer--what do y'all think?

30 April 2009


There is no milk. Do I:

1) Run to the corner store and buy some, come home, and make coffee
2) Run the the coffee shop, get coffee to go and come home to drink it
3) Actually prepare for my day, without the aid of coffee, and then get a coffee on the way to the library?
4) Have tea.

21 April 2009

Best Spams Ever

Subject line: How To Get Boys To Kiss You

Body: With bugles sounding, advanced up yonder street and under the conduct of shebasam.

It's practically poetry.

20 April 2009

Grad School: Bad School or Glad School?

Yes, I've been a bit lazy about updating my little blog recently--noticed perhaps only by Shiloh, my one faithful reader. Shi has recently settled on a graduate school program, gotten a scholarship for it, and is beginning the process of moving herself, her husband, and her insanely cute doggie across the county--I think congratulations are in order, and I thought I'd start with those since this post is about beginning the search for my own graduate program.

Last year, I completed a Master's degree at the University of London--I did this straight out of undergrad, which gave me a kind of mixed bag of experience. I should perhaps have listened more closely to friends and professors who advised me to wait a year before setting off into graduate study, because my goals upon entering that program and my goals now have definitely shifted--but on the other hand, as a personal experience, living in London, getting that degree, meeting my lady, and just generally having a year of study and reflection rather than sloth and dejection after getting my BA--these were all good things.

Anyway, this year has been a lot about figuring out professional goals, and I think I have a fair handle on what I want to do, and now I'm looking at schools that can help me get things done.

It's funny to be applying to graduate school again and to notice how much my methods and thinking about it have changed. The last time around, I was much more haphazard--I pretty much just relied on the universe to work things out for me, and went with my gut reaction to a school most of the time. I didn't look very closely at things like financial aid or the specific research interests of the school/faculty, and I went for quantity much more than quality in terms of my own applications. I guess in the end the universe has the last laugh--I do think things worked out for me, but not the way I expected.

This time around I'm trying to be more thorough. Funding is more important to me now than I realized last time around, so that's something I've paid more attention to, in addition to checking out faculty interests, course listings, institution's resources outside their department, resources in the surrounding area, and chances for internships and graduate research.

But, in the end, sometimes it does come down to a gut reaction--why do some programs stick in my mind while other similar ones fall by the wayside? Why are some programs so exciting that I am willing to overlook the fact that they are located in a cornfield surrounded by a windswept tundra of Midwesternness, while others remain only frustratingly place-bound? Trying to analyze these reactions can be confusing, and sometimes only comes down to good or bad website design (although, since I'm looking at MLIS programs, I DO think usability and clear information access are more important than they would be for, say, an English department website).

Other times, though, I think it has to do with voices--whose voice comes through the summary descriptions of two years or more of what my life might be? Is the voice the cold checklist of ALA-accreditation, or is it the warm voice of interest, scholarship, and history? Is the voice the voice of the bureaucracy of an institution, or is it the voice of the professors and department chairs who make up the fabric of the program? Sometimes, rarely, it can be the voice of the students themselves--today looking through the website of a program I'm kind of on the fence about, I found my way to the online publication of the MLIS students--articles about libraries and books, interviews with interesting professionals, photographs of great libraries around the world; all written and compiled by students, and showcased by a proud department. Suddenly, the search stopped being about what kind of classes were offered or how perfectly suited the catalog was to my interests, but rather about wanting to be in a place where students are interesting, thinking creatures, and a department filled with faculty who are capable of recognizing that and promoting it.

And in the end, that is exactly what I want from a school, you know.

04 March 2009

The Young Victoria

Has anyone else been following the buzz of this The Young Victoria film that premiers in a few days? It's a UK film, starring Emily Blunt as Mrs. Saxe-Coburg-etc. and I have no idea when it's supposed to be released here in the states, but I hope really, really soon 'cause it looks all kinds of awesome. Paul Bettany is in it! As Lord Melbourne! Watching the trailer, it seems like he's supposed to be the films villain, which is pretty funny, and they've also seemingly hyped up the rumors of Victoria's affair with him. The actual Lord Melbourne was something like 40 years Victoria's senior, whereas Bettany is only about 10 years older than Emily Blunt, but that's a little par for the course. The most realistic moment in the trailer is when Victoria asks Albert if she can just get married and forfeit her power to her husband.

In other news, I won some free patterns from the nice folks over at The Hemline. More on that soon--in the meantime, I'm off to work.

20 February 2009

I hear kids are experimenting with shortness these days...

There are a bunch of really lovely mod designer patterns over at MomsPatterns right now. Most of them are not in my size, or not in my style, but are really lovely to look at. I'm particularly taken with this one [*EDIT* upon re-reading this, it sounds like I think this is a mod design, which it isn't. Most of the others are, this one is anomalous. But for serious, lots of chic, funnel-necked mod frocks with oblong hats to be found]:

I love the sunny yellow and the floral version too--it's beautiful. Unfortunately for me, I'm way too short to pull it off. It would look like a bad nightgown on me, and the sleeves would completely overwhelm my wimpy little arms and puny shoulders. Alas for a bit of height, for this is exactly the sort of dress my sister (who has my proportions exactly, but stretched over a 5'7-8''ish frame) or my mama (ditto) can pull off in a snap. They also have the hair for it. While my straight-as-sticks Molly McIntire hair would be at odds with the free-spirit-yness of this, they both have naturally curly hair that's made for a wreath of flowers and a floor-length floral frock.

Also, it has pockets.

It's definitely a step up from the CHUB-DEB.

18 February 2009

Attack of the Chub-Deb

Sized for the CHUB-DEB?

Seriously, sized for the CHUB-DEB?

Advance Pattern Company, to you I say, "WTF?!"

16 February 2009

All this has happened before...

So, my excuse for not writing more frequently or with more depth is in fact not because I have sunken into fits of mania, but instead because I have been working. That's right, I'm gainfully employed. I'll say more about that later, but I'm on my way to work now so I must be brief.

So, for those of you who know my mama, or are interested in the history of Birmingham in the late 60's and 70's, you should check out her blog (On the Southside) in the sidebar. She writes about her memories of being young and living on Southside and it's all really good stuff.

Particularly funny if you are me, though, is that reading through my blogroll today I got to her entry on a Jimi Hendrix show she went to at the University of Alabama when she was 16. I've heard the story before--she went in a very preppy outfit that would have been the height of cool at Berry High School, only to walk into a room of Jimi Hendrix fans who scorned her twinset. Anyway, the accompanying picture to her post is this:

Which is pretty much exactly my outfit today:

I am my mother's daughter.

09 February 2009

Mod Children Take Over Your Town!

For some reason this pattern reminds me of The Tomorrow People. Ok, so here's my question to you, dear reader: do you think I could pull off the look sported by Ms. Red Shorts here? I'm talking head-to-toe--the awesome Vidal Sassoon style bob, the red striped short-suit, the tall socks, and the awesome red and white shoes? Doesn't she look sassy? Like she solves mysteries in a precocious manner and maybe has a mini-scooter that she rides to crime scenes. If so, then Green Skirt is definitely her twin Girl Friday, taking notes and being the straight-laced one.

My real question, though, is how it can be that the two knee-sock wearing curmudgeons on the right can look so cool and awesome (and deserving of their own series of mystery novels), and Blondie there on the left looks like the most annoying thing you have ever met in your life. Maybe it's the red purse? The look on her face? The really poorly proportioned jacket and slacks? The socks? Who knows.

05 February 2009

Objectum Sexuality

Reading through my blogroll this morning I came across this post on Jezebel about a documentary on objectum sexuality, or OS--the, quite literal, love of objects. The tone of the Jezebel article is a little snickery and incredulous, though it tries to keep neutral. It's kind of an easy thing to make fun of--especially the woman who married the Eiffel Tower--easy to dismiss. But on the other hand, it seems like a sort of natural reaction to the extremely ambivalent attitude towards objects that permeates Western culture. As consumers and connoisseurs, we're taught to love and covet objects, but on the same token to collect them, and therefore see them as somehow interchangeable.

I personally have a hard time not loving objects--not in the sexual way of OS, but in a pretty dependent and intense way. I wore the same gray cardigan for about 4 years straight, until holes ate away at it and my mama threw it away. I spent the better part of high school writing odes to bobbypins, mailboxes, and particularly lovely chairs. I've cried over a pair of broken glasses frames--not just at the inconvenience and expense of a new pair, but because the old pair had been with me through my formative years and had in literal and metaphoric senses shaped the way I had seen the world and myself.

He thought they were successful
She thought they were blessed
With objects and material things--
But I never was impressed

I think objects and material things are incredibly important--how we treat them, and how they treat us in return. If they all become disposable, imbued with no meaning, then where will we be? There's a scene in the movie Wall-E where the slobby future-humans, who live in a perpetual state of leisure and consumption, receive an advertisement that red is the new blue--a button is pressed and suddenly all the red shirts are blue shirts. Presto. Magic. (It may be the other way around--Blue to Red). Everything in that world is interchangeable and objects have no meaning, except to Wall-E, who collects his favorites, based not on use or even beauty, but on their inner (for lack of a better word) spirit.

Are you an object lover? If so, leave me a comment with your favorite object-love story. Extra points for poetry!

01 February 2009

Gingersplosion, Friends, and (what else?) Pie

So, that was going to be a picture of me holding a pie, but that picture was kind of atrocious, and when I went to retrieve it from the camera, I found this picture--a much funnier one, because it pretty much entirely encapsulates my relationship with Lady. Firstly, you have us both in Research Mode (we had rented A Knight's Tale, which of course meant we needed to refresh our memories about the Knight's Tale. I'm reading about it on the webbernets while Bronwyn does the actual scholarship via a giant Penguin of The Canterbury Tales)--notice that we have barely removed our outerwear before delving nose first into our respective mediums. Secondly, you have the collection of glasses on the table, because if we love anything, what we love it is the almighty Beverage.

Anyway, it's been a weekend of pies and friends. Lady and I were blessed with some wonderful visitors from the land of Boston and three pies were created in the honor. The first was an entirely new pie, which I will have to make again soon because I didn't get a picture of it; it was a sort of butternut squash cheesecake with a ginger butterscotch sauce and a gingersnap crust. The second was only technically a pie--a Mexican pizza--but I feel it gets the title because crust-type-thing + filling = my reason for living. The third was another Chocolate Pomegranate, but this one had a graham-cracker crust rather than a flour-and-oil one. I used cashew butter as a sub for cow-butter in both the chocolate and butterscotch crusts with very good results in both cases, once again re-affirming my love of nut butter as a sort of crust panacea.

I read a crust recipe once that used frozen hazelnut butter as a partial sub for cow-butter in a flaky pastry crust, and I've been thinking lately it might be nice to make a pie based around that. It might be nice to sub out some of the all-purpose flour for a pastry-grade whole wheat flour and use the resulting crust for a filling that needs a really grounding crust (cherry?).

28 January 2009

From the Unsalted Sidewalks of West Philly

Doesn't this live pattern woman look uncannily like Maggie Gyllenhaal?

This is one of those rare patterns in which the live-action version is more enticing than the artist's rendering. Usually I find it's the other way around--the stylized, cartoon version has the advantage of wafer-thin, anatomically malleable women and no real reference to the weight or drape of fabric. But on this pattern, that seems to be the problem. On the model, it looks chic, office-y but not overly professional. On the cartoons it looks like a bathrobe.

I don't have much to show for myself, sewing-wise. I finished one dress, but I'm unhappy with the fit, and the fact that the best bits of it are the parts I did by hand (like the hem). The other dress I've been working on (affectionately nicknamed the JesusMaryAndJoseph dress, for the frequency I felt compelled to utter that as I stood slack-jawed and uncomprehending over the directions) is having some issues with the bodice being about 1 1/2 inches too long for my little frame, and also I need to purchase a zipper for the side-closing.

The part of me that loves to start new things wants to start a new project (at least until I get a zipper for the JMAJ dress), but the responsible, see-it-through girl wants to convince myself to do some more work on the unfinished dresses before moving on. Angel v. Devil, that kind of thing. You understand.

22 January 2009

googling my way to glory

Someone in Italy apparently found my blog by googling the phrase "suffragette pants pattern."

Sometimes, when someone finds their way to me via googles, I am completely apathetic to their plight. The person who googled "Sexy Secretaries" and got here, for example, I'm not really all that concerned that my blog didn't meet their searchy needs. But "suffragette pants pattern" is awesome. I totally want to be the blog that fulfills that search.

Unfortunately, I don't know what suffragette pants are. Firstly, since the person is in Italy, I don't know if they are using the American or British usage of pants. Do they mean trousers or knickers? I think the former, because I think what they are referring to are these:

Which would be bloomers. If a pattern exists for these (which it probably does, although I haven't found it after a morning spent looking), it's hard to get to from google, because most of the search terms I tried lead me to children's underwears (you know, the little bloomers babies and toddlers wear under their dresses but over their diapers?). I know there are sites that do repro 19th century patterns--but usually these are for corsets, shirtwaists, skirts, and various undergarments.

Additionally, compared with modern, baby-type bloomers, which are really simple affairs (elasticized
waist, elasticized legs and boom, bloomers), a 19th century dress reform style bloomer would be pretty difficult to make. There are a lot of different styles of them, but most were made in heavy sportswear fabrics like tweeds, and involved over skirts and shirtwaists to make them imitate the style of a dress.

Of course, this person could be thinking of bicycle bloomers, like these:

From what I know of these, they'd be pretty hard to make too--I saw a 19th century bicycling outfit once on display in a museum and it pretty much killed any desire I would have had to make a pair. They made these suckers out of the heaviest materials available--really heavy wool with suede and leather trims and anchors--sometime the pants parts would be weighted so the fabric wouldn't flap around while you biked or get caught in the wheel spokes.

So, no patterns for that here. Sorry, Italy. I let you down. Maybe next time!

19 January 2009

Tables and Chairs

Last night, in a fit of despondency, I dragged Lady to Ikea. Actually, only I was despondent. She was just hungry.

The end result was a veritable cornucopia of new furnitures. Lady got herself some much needed bookshelves and a cabinet that hangs on the wall (for books and curios). I came away with a table for my sewing things (so I can stop sewing on the kitchen table), an iron (so I can stop ironing on the coffee table), and some boxes for my notions (so I can stop leaving pinking shears on the couch and seam rippers on the floor). Pictures:

In addition, this is the pie I made last week for Marie's birthday:

Chocolate Pomegranate with fresh berries. It's (mostly) Vegan (except for 3 tablespoons of milk in the crust, which can be subbed out with soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, or whatever your favorite milk substitute happens to be).

The recipe is one of my staples, as it is infinitely variable based on what kind of chocolate flavor combinations you like. You could have chocolate-amaretto, chocolate orange (garnished with mandarin orange slices, perhaps), mocha (with vanilla ice cream on top), chocolate-cinnamon. It looks and slices like a French Silk pie, but is in fact about 100 times more chocolately and not at all creamy or heavy (it has no cream in it, so the richness is all from the chocolate, not from eggs or milk, like in a silk pie).

Recipe as follows:


2 cups flour
2/3 cups oil (vegetable, sunflower, etc. I wouldn't use olive oil, peanut oil, or anything that has a strong flavor of it's own, unless you wanted that flavor to carry through)
3 tblspns milk or milk substitute
pinch salt
--mix the oil and milk in one dish and the flour and salt in a big bowl. Add the oilymilk to the saltyflour and mix with hands until it forms a ball. It should be the texture of wet clay. Roll between two sheets of wax paper (srsly. do not skip this step or you will be spatulaing this crust off your counter tops with a spatula in chunks), invert onto pie plate and trim. Bake completely. Set aside to cool.


1 pkg silken tofu
2 bars unsweetened baking chocolate (I like the ghirdelli 100% cacoa bars. Generally speaking, the better the chocolate, the better this pie will be. This is a decadent pie--buy good chocolate!)
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tblspns (or more, or less, to taste) confectioner's sugar
flavoring (in this case, one and a half bottles of Pom pomegranate juice--the ones that come in the little squatty bottles--cooked over the stove until reduced to a syrup)

In a food processor or blender, process tofu until completely smooth. Melt chocolate over burner in a pot or in the microwave (if it starts to look dry, add some butter, margarine, or other oil). Combine with tofu in processor. Add vanilla extract, then other flavoring (in this case, pom syrup) and continue to process. Add confectioner's sugar one tblspn at a time, tasting after each spoonful. If it isn't sweet enough, add more, if it starts to get too sweet, stop adding.

The vanilla I find keeps the chocolate tasting smooth. You can use granulated sugar too, but I like the confectioner's because it has some cornstarch in it, which helps the pie set. If the concoction looks too watery, you can add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch to help it set even further.

Pour into prepared pie shell and smooth top. Garnish with fruit, or whatever is handy and looks/tastes nice. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

15 January 2009

Pedagogy, or Why I Have No Direction in Life

Currently, I have no job. Partly this is because I finished my Master's degree and have moved cities twice in the past 5 months. Mostly it is (I think) because I have no idea what I want to do with my life. [note: I feel I should clarify that before I moved to Philadelphia I had two jobs, so the internets should not get the idea that I am completely lazy].

Before I went to England last year, I thought I wanted to go on to get a PhD in late 19th century British Literature. Sometimes I think I still might want to do that, but at several points in time last year (once when I was opening the Kelmscott edition of Sigurd the Volsung, once when I was standing on the landing of the V&A with Anne, watching some museum workers refurbish the cast court collection, and some other times as well) I began to second guess myself about things. I want to learn things, and I want to teach things, but I don't know if I want to be a professor.

So now the odyssey of life. I'm taking some time off to work (if I can find a job--damn you economy!), to learn about new things, and figure out what I actually want to do with the rest of my life.

It's a frustrating task, I think, in part, because actually I know exactly what I want to do in life. I want to bake pies and sew things. I want to read books and be excited about them, and maybe even write books of my own, not for any purpose but just to write them. I want to create bad art and good conversation. I want, in short, this:

Then last night because I couldn't sleep I was reading Lady's copy of 1066 and All That, which has the following to say in the introduction about history:

"History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember. All other history defeats itself."

And the first thing I thought when I read this was, "wouldn't this be a great first day discussion for a history class?" So many great places you could take that discussion: What history can you remember? What is the purpose of history if you can't remember it? What is the purpose of history? What did you think history was before this statement told you differently? Is history self-defeating? How do we remember the history we thought we knew but really forgot? Does history remain history if some people remember it but not all people?

Then there is this post on Historiann about history classrooms, pedagogy, and investigative teaching methods, which also made me really excited about teaching.

There is no point to this post, except perhaps that whether or not I ever get a PhD, maybe I do want to teach and that also I am still of the opinion that occupation is a way overrated way to plan your life. And also that I want to be employed. The End.

Tricia Helfer

Internet, meet Tricia Helfer. Tricia Helfer, meet the internet.

I'll be posting more about her later, but for now, I just wanted you all to be able to experience her majesty.

08 January 2009

Tangerine Tarte Tatin

My flight back from Alabama was extremely bumpy and nausea-inducing, so I distracted myself with the January issue of Martha Stewart Living, which had a feature about varieties of oranges and other citrus fruits. Her recipes were fine and all, but what I really wanted was pie, so I made this guy up:

Tangerine Tarte Tatin:

6 medium-sized tangerines, sliced
2 tangerines, juiced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup orange liquor (I used cointreau, but anything would work)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
puff pastry

I boiled the sliced tangerines for about 3 minutes to make the rinds soft, then drained the water off and set them on a paper towel. Then I melted the butter in a skillet, added the sugar, orange liquor, and juice until it started to bubble, then added the sliced tangerines. Cooked all that together until it started to smell extra delicious and a little caramelly. Unfortunately for me, I don't own a tatin pan, so I used a cake tin--arranged the tangerines in the bottom and then poured the juice over them, then covered that with the toasted almonds, and then fitted the puff pastry (cut to the size of the tin) over it. Baked at 425 for 20 minutes. Final step: let cool 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate.

It turned out really really well, although a little sweet. I think using a more tart variety of orange might help with that, and reducing the sugar a tish. I used store-bought puff pastry, 'cause I was being lazy, so there's that.

On the side I made a little bit of whipped cream with almonds--just a regular whipped cream recipe with almond extract added and then toasted slivered almonds folded in after it is whipped. All in all, a success!

02 January 2009

A box of tatters

So I have dragged out the giant box of unfinished objects I left behind me when I left the country last year. It's equal parts treasure trove and trash pit, so I've been sorting through pattern pieces, unfinished projects, bolts of fabric, notions, and literal rags for the past hour. Yeesh.

Amongst the ruins: the instructions for Simplicity 5240 (looks like a 70s pattern for a pant or skirtsuit) and the cut pieces of Simplicity 6885 (which also appears to be a 70s pattern for pants).

What should I do with these random bits, do you think?

01 January 2009


Did you know that the Hartford airport has free wifi? It does.

The Philadelphia airport, where I am currently holed up, does not. I am therefore reduced to coffee drinking and pecan-roll eating. I suppose it shouldn't alarm me that this pecan roll is awful, since I bought it in an airport, but I feel compelled to ask the world at large why on earth any baker would insist on making a pecan roll so slathered with a tar-like caramel that it is basically inedible unless you are gifted (cursed?) with teeth like the villain of that one Bond flick. I can't remember his name. Srsly. Do you remember this scene in one of the Harry Potter books where Hagrid gives Ron and Harry a bunch of treacle that he has made and they barely escape with mandibles intact? I'm pretty sure that the baker of this particular pecan roll invented some sort of Gumby-based technology so that ze could jump into the pages of that book and steal the recipe from Hagrid.

I'm on my way back to Birmingham--a day later than I was supposed to leave, due to weather. I'm tired and have the beginnings of a cold, but I'm happy to be traveling towards home. I miss my mother and have a suspicion that she has been working too hard lately. I miss my mother's cats. I miss Birmingham.

I think about cities a lot, probably most especially Birmingham. At some point when I was in high school, I woke up to the city in a way that I have never fully recovered from. Though I had moved around quite a bit through my childhood--living in different houses, going to different schools, allying myself with different parents--the city had been the one constant, the solid thing that was mappable, dependable. I have an allegiance to Birmingham that I will never have for another place, no matter how many years away from it I spend.

Like most allegiances, mine for Birmingham is perhaps misplaced--or, at least, based on false premises. It is not the only city I've ever lived in, or even the only city I've ever loved--I spent the first for years of my life in Macon, Georgia, and the four years of my undergraduate degree in Atlanta. But I still feel, somehow, that if the whole world were destroyed and only I survived, I'd miss Birmingham the most, its cicadas and its Shades Crest Road, the marquee of the Alabama Theater and the pothole on 19th Street.

I spent last year in London, earning a degree I have yet to use and now that I'm back I must admit that I spent the better part of my time there pining for things that felt familiar. Now that I've moved to Philadelphia, I find myself pining for London. I miss the bus that I took to the British Library every day and the Gherkin. I miss the market along Whitechapel High Street that I walked through every day and I miss coming home at night when it was packed up and gone, but you could still smell the fish from the fishmonger's stand when you passed its vacant spot. I miss the view from my kitchen window. I get sad and nostalgic listening to this song .

I'm currently re-reading Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, so I'll leave y'all with this as a final thought of the day:

"As I drew my ship out of London I knew I would never go there again. For a time I felt only sadness, and then, for no reason, I was filled with hope. The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light."