Thursday, May 24, 2012

Been Thrifting, no. 6 | Spring Dream


I've had flower press on the "to purchase" list, lurking at the back of my head, since the Spring equinox.  So, imagine my delight when I found just such a press at Goodwill for $2.  Wolfman took it from me, inspected it, asked, "How much?," and upon hearing the answer said, "Good.  It'd cost just that to make one."  He talks like this sometimes, and the truth is that I like him when he's a little gruff and incredulous.  Also found two paper backs by two authors I'm keen on (Gaiman and Kingsolver), a little jewelry-catcher to be kept at the kitchen sink, and a wall-hanging that I'd left, because it was a whopping $3 (what?!  Why did this seem like too much to me?!), but kept returning to over and again to pick up, touch, look upon.  It's a dreamy little scene, in'it?  The hatted, aproned woman and her laundry against a soft blue sky.  I ended up snatching it up at the last minute, along with a bright yellow linen pencil skirt and black blazer, not pictured.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 28 | From the Farm

I get a Farmer's Market high.  I go, I peruse, I chat, I walk home with arms over-burdened, feeling unutterably amazing.  This time of year is so magical.
Frozen peas from Smith Nursery (CSA); Strawberries, blueberries (my first of the season!), new potatoes, spinach, and sugar snap peas from Lyon Farms of Creedmoor (about 35 miles from us).
4 lbs hamburger (ground), beef shoulder medallion, London broil, and 1 dozen eggs from Queen B. Farms of Mebane (about 40 miles from us).  We've been buying our meat almost exclusively from Queen B. for a few months now, since making the decision to cut factory farm meat out of our diets once and for all.  Queen B provides to the Carden Farm stand (basically, a 7-day-a-week Farmer's Market) up the street from our house.  What I particularly love about buying from farmers is that they love their work and they take care of their animals.  I'd even go so far as to say they love their animals, which might seem odd given that many of the cows Queen B raises will go to slaughter to feed my hungry belly, but while Wolfman discussed cuts with the farmer, I browsed the photo album of his animals on the table next to the display eggs.  I mean, really.
Look how big that spinach leaf is!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 27 | Mothers Day






Wolfman & I took my grandma out to brunch on Sunday, to the Hibernian (the pub where Wolfman and I fell in love, and where Wolfman proposed to me, and where we ate after that little civil ceremony that bound us as man and wife).  We were early for the Sunday buffet, so sat at the bar where Grandma and I giggled and swooned over our Irish bartender.  "They are charming, aren't they," said Grandma, as if slightly annoyed.  I'm not sure if she was talking about Irish men or men in general, probably the latter.  The thing is, I kind of despise Mothers Day (and Fathers Day), most likely because I come from a nontraditional family, and these holidays seemed to rub these differences in my face when I was a kid.  But, I do love my grandma.  I will use any excuse to take her out and treat her nice.

We went thrifting after our meal, and I lost track of her in the shop at one point.  I asked Wolfman, "Where did she go?," and he pointed her out.  I got a good look at her, from a distance, and thought aloud, We are practically the same person, aren't we.  Wolfman says, yes.  The day he first met her, she kissed his face before even being introduced properly, and later that night when we were at his friend's house, he informed that friend, "Michelle's grandma is a fox."

She is.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 26 | In My Bag

The work tote.  It be heavy.  I guess we could call this, What's In My Bag: Hoarder's Edition.  The bag is a Vera Bradley, which... well.  I'm not sure if this is strictly a Southern thing, but Vera Bradley holds a certain connotation for me.  Vera Bradley is the slightly upscale bag the debutantes I went to school with carried.  I sort of surprised myself when I decided, whimsically, to buy one with my discount back when I was working for Hallmark (it was also on sale, so double deal, I should say).  I want, need, to scale down--but that would start with all the paper ephemera I carry around, and I just can't bring myself to do it.  The one day I don't carry a notebook with me will be the day I'm suddenly visited by the muses.  Perhaps.
Betty Boop hand sanitizer, wallet, Cowgirl case (for camera), mp3 case, knife, & not-at-all-stylish phone.
Burt's Bee's Hand Salve smells like rosemary, mini vanity bag to replace the one my cat peed on, Marilyn Monroe mirror compact, & Playboy mint tin from Kath.
The necessities: Oxi Clean spray (I'm a mess), pill box, & red lipstick.
Latest issue of the Indpendent, a book, a notebook, and a planner.
Bus schedules, a moleskine (another gift from Kath; she's seriously the best), latest letters sent to me, postcards in case I need to jot a quick line, card-carrier, & pen and highlighters.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wolfpeople Library, no. 3 | A Questionnaire on Reading Habits


Every once in a while, I find myself utterly uninspired to continue my slavish self-enforced curriculum of reading.  I'll ask myself why and what for?  When I'm on my deathbed, will I say, "I'm so glad I forced myself to read the Twilight series and that book of Twilight criticism; I can die in peace knowing that I understand the ins and outs of that unfortunate zeitgeist."  Occasionally, I need a little inspiration, a little reminder of why I read so much and why I read what I read.  In my reading (hah!), I came across this New York Times bit in which Lena Dunham shares her reading habits and decided that talking (or writing) about books might get me excited to do more of it.  So, here I go.  (And if you'd like to play along, leave a link in the comments; I'd love to read!)
 
1. When & where do you read?
I do most of my reading on buses, and, lucky for me, my daily commute is butt-numbingly long.  I sometimes find it difficult to concentrate on reading while at home, particularly if Wolfman is around.  But, I love porch reading (in my rocking chair, with tea [iced or hot, depending on the season], and either barefoot or snuggled under an afghan [depending on the season]).  In fact, sometimes I read aloud on the porch and get startled and embarrassed by neighbors.

2. What are your reading habits?  Paper or electronic?  Do you take notes?  Do you snack while you read?
I underline, highlight, write notes in margins, keep a dictionary nearby: all of the above.  I do not snack (though I snack at all other junctures of my day).  I find it exceptionally difficult to read long text off computer screens of any kind; when I find articles or essays online, or even long-form blog updates, I actually print them out (the environmentalist shame!). E-readers are not something I will ever be interested in.  Ever.

3. What was the last truly great book you read?  Do you remember the last time you said to some one, "You absolutely must read this book"?
At the moment, I'm half way through Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, a truly exceptional read.  But don't take my word for it; it just happened to win a Pulitzer in 1971.  (Are Pulitzer Prizes a thing--like, do you take that seriously?  I'd never thought about them until I learned that this year no Pulitzer prize for fiction was awarded; that fact actually legitimized the award for me, though I do think the complaints and suggestions lodged by this year's fiction judges are valid.)  

4. What's your favorite literary genre?  Any guilty pleasures?
I pride myself in reading a little bit of everything--or, at least, I am the literary equivalent of that statement, "I listen to everything that's not country or rap."  (Though, typically, if I hear somebody say that, or I read it on a person's Facebook profile, I tend to cancel that person out as a friend or intelligent human being.  What I mean is that I'll read anything that's not a Stieg Larsson novel.)  Lately, I have been particularly keen on fantasy, but I don't feel guilty about that.

5. Have you ever read a book about girls or women that made you disappointed or just extremely annoyed?
Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series is about as unfeminist as books can be.  Bella Swan is an utterly passive character, manipulated by controlling men who happen to be supernaturals.  I could handle that, however, were it not for the fact that a generation of young women are reading these books and possibly being brainwashed.  Note to young girls everywhere: Your boyfriend is not the most important thing about you.  Also, sex is not a horror show; it can be totally fun [just make sure you're ready, don't let yourself feel pressured, and use protection!].

6. And what's the best book about girls you've ever read?
Patricia C. Wrede's Dealing with Dragons (the first of her Enchanted Forest Chronicles).  I first read it when I was in the 4th grade (in a childhood with relatively little time spent reading), and it was perhaps my first exposure to out-and-out feminism.  Princess Cimorene makes it very clear that she is not interested in being saved by knights; she'd much rather make cherries jubilee, befriend dragons, and defeat evil wizards.

7. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Or, really, any book involving food politics and the importance of eating local and homesteading.  But, Barbara Kingsolver's is a lovely read.

8. What's your all-time favorite movie based on a book?  The worst?
I'm quite keen on the Harry Potter movies, particularly "Prisoner of Azkaban".  I know there are purists out there, all pissy because plot points were missing or rearranged from book to movie, but the various directors all, I believe, did such an incredible job bringing JK Rowling's world to life.  Just last night I rewatched "Deathly Hallows Part 1" for the first time since seeing it in the theatre, and I was once again floored by the attention to detail, and the way mood and tone was so perfectly translated from the books.  Plus, these are just breathtakingly beautiful movies.  I love all of them.  The worst has to be "Cold Mountain", though I should admit that I've never actually watched the movie.  I just really love that book and cannot, will not, accept Jude Law as Inman.

9. What book makes you laugh?
I chuckle fairly frequently while reading Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books.  I also giggled myself silly both times I read Zilpha Keatley Snyder's children's book, The Headless Cupid.

10. What were your favorite books as a child?  Do you have a favorite character or hero from one of those books?  Is there one book you wish all kids would read?
As I mentioned above: 1) Didn't read much as a kid, and 2) But did read Dealing with Dragons, and it helped make me the hellion I am today.  I also read E.B. White's Trumpet of the Swan, which sparked my life-long devotion for naturalism, environmentalism, and animal rights.  Charlotte's Web is a standard for children, but having read and reread them both as an adult (as well as Stuart Little), I think, thematically, Trumpet of the Swan is the more important book for young readers to consume.  

11. Disappointing, overrated, just not good.  What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like and didn't?  Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
It is exceptionally rare that I don't finish a book--I'm somewhat compulsive about finishing my reads, no matter how torturous they may be.  I, however, did not finish reading Candace Bushnell's Sex & The City.  I love the television show, so wanted, as is my habit, to explore the source material--but beyond being poorly written, the book is shallow and off-putting.  As I wrote in my original review, Candace Bushnell is no Carrie Bradshaw.  As far as books being overrated: in college, I was forced on numerous occasions to read William Faulkner, John Updike, and Philip Roth, all of whom I despise passionately--Faulkner for form (or lack thereof), and Updike and Roth because they are so nauseatingly lauded, so heavy-handed, yet neither of them can write a real, human depiction of a woman.   

12. Would you like to write a book?  If you could write a book about anything, what would it be?
Of course I would like to write a book.  I'd like to write a series of young adult fantasy with a spunky female protagonist (again with the influence of Dealing with Dragons), but what I'll end up slaving away at one day, I'm sure, is a memoir exploring, in depth, my abandonment and mother issues (like we need another one of those, amiright?).

13. What's the one book you wish someone else would write?
My grandma, on a whim one day, started writing a short story about women and travel and witchery--it's incredible.  I'd like her to expand on it, finish it, and publish it.  She doesn't have much confidence in her ability to write, but, truly, it is so good.  Also, I want to see so many more novelizations of television shows and movies.  Of the very few books I read as a kid, one of them was the novelization of "Fright Night", and it blew my mind.

14. If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?  What would you want to know?  Have you ever written an author?
I want to meet Elizabeth Gilbert.  I think she and I could be friends.

15. What do you plan to read?
My to-read list, I swear, is about 300 books long, and broken up by category (fiction, non-fiction & memoir, children's literature, etc.).  But, in the immediate future, I have plans to start George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series (though I'm currently in the middle of too many other fantasy series [Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, The Wicked Years, The Sisters Grimm, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Dark Reflections]).  I also have plans to dip my toes into The Hunger Games and see what all the hype is about. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Domesticity Log, no. 9 | A Go-To Pie Crust Recipe



Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoon for sweet recipe)
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp ice water
Instructions
  1. Place cut up stick of butter in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, so it's thoroughly chilled.
  2. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, sugar, and pulse to mix.  Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles course meal, with pea size pieces of butter.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture begins to clump together.  If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready; if not, add a little more water and pulse again.
  3. Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface.  Carefully shape into a disc.  Do not over-knead the dough.  You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough (these will make the dough flaky!).  Sprinkle the disc with flour on all sides.  Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Before this recipe, I was in a sad state, or, often, a panicked, irate state (see: Thanksgiving morning, 2010, struggling with a pumpkin pie crust to take to my mother-in-law).  Crusts were either too sticky, or too unyielding, too tasteless, too brick-like.  I was at the end of my rope, really, when this recipe came to me, via Simply Recipes of all places.  I use it for everything now, sweet or savory, galette or popover.

Of course, as you can plainly see from the above photos, I have yet to master the art of a picturesque pie crust.  Though, truthfully, I'm not sure I care to work on that skill to any degree.  The pies always taste good enough.  And I kind of like to think that this is what my children and grandchildren will affectionately remember about me: "Remember those pies Mom used to make?  Remember how ugly they were?"

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 25 | A Yard Full of Flowers, a Drive Full of Sea Shells


Ynis Avalach by Faun on Grooveshark 

Just a couple scenes of note from the Oakwood neighborhood in Raleigh, where I take my rambling breaks from work.  It should be noted that Raleigh is about 130 miles away from the nearest beach.  How those seashells were collected and dumped, I can only imagine.
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