Monday, August 25, 2008


There will be knitting updates as soon as I can rouse myself to take pictures. But until then, how about a meme? I got this one from Dr. Wende.

Favorite food to crunch: Popcorn. With salt, but butter's optional.

Favorite comfort food: Mashed potatoes and gravy. No contest, hands down, my favorite comfort food, and a definite contender for favorite food ever.

Favorite picnic lunch: When we used to take family road trips when I was a kid, my parents would pack a cooler so we could eat at rest stops along the way. Our big treat was Underwood meat spreads, a canned food that we rarely got at home. It also came in deviled ham and roast beef varieties, but the deviled chicken was our (my brother and me) favorite. Spread on bread with Miracle Whip, mustard, and a slice of cheese, the sandwich meant that vacation was underway. Half the fun was eating it at a rest stop picnic table, with paper towels for napkins and chips or cold pork n' beans as a side. Somehow I don't think it would taste as good eaten at home. I'm also not so sure it would taste good now that I'm an adult. But at least I have the memory.

Favorite food scene in movie: The sequence in the first Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the "Chocolate Room" (this is the part where Gene Wilder sings "Pure Imagination"). I'm not a big fan of the movie as an adult, but I used to dream about being set loose in that room when I was a little kid. All that candy! That river of chocolate! Those little edible buttercup teacups....

Favorite food lyrics: "And when I promised my hand / He promised me back / Snow Cherries from France." I don't know what French Snow Cherries are, but don't they sound wonderful? This is one of my favorite Tori Amos songs, all about love and wandering boys, and promises kept and broken. It sounds like the beginnings of a fairy tale, or a grand adventure story.

Best food smell memory: The smell of my grandma's caramel pecan rolls. She used to make a pan every time she came to visit. The smell of the yeasty dough, of the caramelized sugar, of the melty butter you spread on before you eat them -- they remind me of her, and how much she loved sweets and baking and sharing food with her family. I attempted them by myself for the first time last Christmas. They smelled just right.

Favorite summer snack: Strawberries. Sure you can get them all year now, but they're best (and cheapest) in the summer, and I try to eat as many as I can before they're gone.

Food that reminds me of the ocean: Fried soft-shell crabs on a roll, preferably eaten at the West Haven beaches.

Favorite winter snack: Eggnog. I've had some killer homemade versions, but I like my dad's the best. He gets Pennsylvania Dutch brand and doctors it up a bit.

Most likely to eat for lunch: Last year it was soup from the Soup Stop. This year it will probably be burritos from the Burrito Box (what is it with lunch places and alliteration?). Or whatever else is near school and relatively inexpensive.

Least likely to eat for lunch: Something I brought from home. Despite my best intentions, I am terrible at packing lunches. I always mean to do it the night before but then I forget and don't have time in the morning and run off to work with a bottle of water and some crackers or something.

Makes me gag: Raw cucumber. (but not pickles!)

Food tradition I love: My mom's Christmas morning egg sandwiches. They're a homemade version of Egg McMuffins and it wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Food tradition I loathe: I hate black-eyed peas and I don't care if it's good luck to eat them on New Year's. They're terrible.

Favorite wild foods: I'm a child of the suburbs. Food comes from the grocery store.

Favorite medicinal food: Chicken soup, especially Vietnamese chicken soup. It's good for what ails you.

Food that reflects my heritage: I'd love to name some classic German dishes, but they really aren't foods that got eaten much in my family (with the exception of German potato salad). My culinary heritage is good old Midwestern-type casserole food, preferably incorporating a can of Campbell's cream of something-or-other soup.

Food most like me: Burritos. They're packed with interesting stuff. ;)

Favorite raw food smell: Limes. They smell fresh and clean and like summer and the beach and refreshing drinks and maybe even key lime pie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I came, I translated, I kicked some butt!

Summer internship: over, except for a few last details (whew!)
Library job: restarted, and they'd like me back for the fall (yay!)
German: learned, sort of (arrgh!)
German reading exam: passed (hooray!)
Next step on the road to Ph.D.: proposing my qualifying exams (aack!)

Sorry to have dropped of the interwebs like that. Things got a little crazy once I realized how little time I had before the German exam. But it is over and I have passed (thank goodness) and now I'm right where I should be on the degree schedule. I just got the email with the results - I was a bit afraid to look in case the news wasn't good. I still can't believe I passed. I've reread the email several times just to make sure.

The exam was hard. I got the paper and looked at the page full of German and freaked out a little (ok, a lot). It seemed to take me forever just to get through the title and I started to panic a little. I just kept going, though, and things got easier and I got faster, and by the end of the three hours I had made it through the whole passage. By the end, I felt like I more-or-less had the basic idea of all the sentences down, but I just didn't know if it would be finely tuned enough to pass muster. The German instructor was rumored to be very tough, so I just didn't know. I spent the evening making chocolate chip cookies to console myself, just in case. Now they can be cookies of celebration, instead!

I'm off to enjoy myself for a day. For once, there's very little hanging over my head. Tomorrow it's back to work and back to figuring out what to do about those qualifying exams, but I'm just going to enjoy the day today. Auf wiedersehen!

Friday, August 01, 2008

...And I'm thirsty

I have a little problem with contemporary art. Namely, most of it is crappy. So when I learned that this week's intern field trip was to P.S.1, The Museum of Modern Art's contemporary art space, I was a little less than thrilled. I was even less thrilled when I went to the website the night before to see what was up. Finnish art? Now I have nothing against Finland. I'm sure the Finns are a delightful people, what with their reindeers and lovely sweaters, and um, other stuff. But what kind of art was going to be there?

Well, I'm pleased to say that I was totally wrong. I saw some totally awesome art today. Here's a link to the exhibit. You can see detail pictures of many of the coolest things there. There were four things I thought were especially cool. For the design aficianados among you, there was the Futuro Lounge, which is a version of futuristic plastic pre-fab housing from the 1960s. It was refitted as a space to watch installation videos. It was hard to imagine the place functioning as a home, but it would have made a thouroughly awesome bar.
If you go to the page I linked above and look at the rotating images at the top, you'll notice a rabbit standing in front of a pool of water. The picture doesn't do this one justice. The room was dark, lit from above with all the light shining into a round pool of water. It looked like moonlight and was cold and beautiful. The rabbit was standing on its hind legs with its front paws on the edge of the pool, and if you were standing across from it, it seemed to be looking directly at you. It was so beautiful I didn't want to stop looking at it, but there was almost something sinister about it all.
Also sinister, VERY sinister, was an installation by an artist named Markus Copper. Called Kursk, it was set in a small room off a quiet stairwell in a corner of the museum. It was dark when you walked in, and before you were several rows of large black old-timey diving suits hanging from the ceiling. Creepy enough, in its way. But then they started to move. Lights went on and off in their helmets, their arms (holding giant wrenches) started to move up and down. The whole thing was accompanied by banging noises and wooshing sounds. It was terrifying. Turns out it's an homage to a group of Russian sailors who were trapped deep under the sea in a nuclear submarine and all died. With the added background knowledge, the whole thing was even more disturbing. I don't know what it must have been like for those poor men, but if it was anything like that room, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. This one will be with me for a while. (The photo on the website is nothing like the actual room -- not nearly as dark and grim.)
There were other great things, like clothing made out of feathers and natural seeds and grasses, movie projects, more rabbit art, but I want to leave on a high note after that last thing there, so I'll mention the thing that I was most excited by. The Complaints Choir. I had seen a few of these videos on youtube before, but was pleasantly surprised to see that there were many more playing in one of the rooms in the exhibit. I guess the originators of the project were Finnish? If you haven't heard about this project, basically they go to different cities, get a group of volunteers together, and then write and sing songs based on things the people complain about. It's really awesome. The version from Helsinki, though not in English, is beautiful (there are subtitles). I especially liked this one, from Birmingham, England. The refrain is particularly catchy. I've been humming it all day.

So I'm glad I got proven wrong about contemporary art, and had a lovely and educational day despite myself. I like it when that happens. So go watch the complaints video, because for the moment, there are no complaints here. Happy weekend!