Friday, 3 June 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ll be back soon!

In the meantime, here’s a picture of the cake, which, if I may say so myself, was pretty darn good.

Nom nom nom.

A good friend is visiting from the Olde Country and today we’re leaving my natal village and driving up to DC to see touristy stuff, then continuing the rest of the way to GradSchoolHome on Saturday.  Back soon, I promise!  Stick around!

Gooooooin’ to the chapel and we’re gooooooona get married…

Wednesday, 25 May 2011 § 3 Comments

That song was the first song I ever learned to sing in harmony.  My best friend from high school and I walked around singing the chorus.  She was actually a singer — a ridiculously talented one — and she instructed me to just stick to the basic melody and she’d take care of the rest.

Anyhow, where was I?

Ah, right: weddings!  This epic cake!

The second-to-last layer of the last tier is in the oven right now.  I have learned some lessons along the way, including but not limited to:

(1)  Do your shopping at Costco.  Seriously.  Just do it.  And get the 7.5 dozen egg flat, because you will end up needing them all, even though you only have 5 dozen on your list.

Needs more nuts. (No, seriously, I did, and do you have any idea how hard it is to find blanched hazlenuts down here?!)

(2) Don’t bake while sleep-deprived.  Like that time when I had spent about a week getting around four hours of sleep a night, culminating in an overnight train voyage (tip: better living through chemistry), and then started baking the first tier around 11 pm.  And then put the second layer of that tier in the oven around 12:45, meant to bake it for about an hour, settled in to watch “My Strange Addiction” while it was in the oven, and woke up at 2:30 to the smell of burning cake.  And of course it was the layer with the most expensive ingredients (see above: needing more nuts).  So yeah, don’t bake while sleep-deprived.  Because re-making half a tier’s worth of batter?  Not fun, and not cheap.

(3) Know the volume of your stand mixer.  It was a foregone conclusion that the bottom tier (30 cups of batter for 3 12″ square layers) would not fit in my mixer.  I thought the second layer (19 cups) would.  I was wrong.

Lemon poppyseed: Is good for you.

(3) Supreming lemons will always hurt.  Always.

Ow. (And you should see the twin cuts on the tip of my index finger!)

More lessons to come, including shots of the baked tiers, and maybe even shots from my natal village (highlights: the civil war room in my mom’s house; the Robert E. Lee license plates).  Also, not that y’all can help me with this directly, but: I couldn’t decide which dress to wear, and so I brought literally every single party dress [that isn’t black] I own and figured I’d make the decision here.  The contenders: cream and black that I wore to my cousin’s wedding last autumn; blue strapless that I wore to my mom’s wedding 4 years ago; white with embroidered flowers and ridiculously girly (maybe even too girly?); and floral print. What’s a girl to do??  Is it wrong to wear white to another woman’s wedding [her dress is gold-ish]?  Is it even more wrong to reprise a dress you’ve already worn to a [family] wedding?  Thoughts?

Boh is concerned.

Friday, 20 May 2011 § 1 Comment

Boh is hosting me at his lake house while his human is away for a bit.  (“Research,” smeasearch: she’s at the zoo, y’all.)  And he is concerned.

(Not that he ever isn’t.)

First, he is concerned that I may, in fact, have a schizoform disorder.  I speak to him in a verwirrend mèlange of German, French, and English.  “Vas-y, Boh!  À ta boite!”  “Boh, was machst du denn da?!”  And lolspeak: “Ohhai Boh! you can has noms!” And then on top of that, I speak to him as though he were a petulant preschooler (“Boh, you may CHOOSE not to beg, or you may CHOOSE to sit in your box.”), an unruly gradeschooler (“Boh! Are these the rules?! NO THESE ARE NOT THE RULES!”), and a grad student (“Boh, I find this dubious and problematic at best.”)  Nevermind that I tend to read to him from such masterpieces as Law Under the Swastika.

"This seems like a bad remake of 'Stand by Me,'" worries Boh.

He is also concerned that my momma never taught me not to walk on railroad tracks.

Finally, Boh heard a rumor that tomorrow is Rapture Day.  Now, he heard this when I was flicking around radio stations, and some other dog mentioned to him that he had seen this movie once called “All Dogs go to Heaven” so he doesn’t need to worry.  But Boh overheard some human talking about how the idea that animals have souls is asinine, based on arguments ranging from Aristotle to Luther.  Boh isn’t so sure.  But that would mean that, in fact, NO dogs go to heaven.  But then Boh remembered what he read in Matthew 24:36 and thought maybe this rapture whatnot was rubbish.  But he’s still concerned.

Apocalypse tomorrow?

So yeah.  Boh’s concerned.

It’s a tough life.

Dude, Ethel, where ya been?

Sunday, 15 May 2011 § 2 Comments

Anyone still here?

Hi!  I’ve been neglecting this space because I spent the past week trying to figure out what to do with myself.  The answer hovered between “painting at the Rooster’s new abode” and “absolutely nothing.”  I haven’t read a book in over a week.  I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone in my life without reading.  I have watched an ungodly amount of really, really bad internet television and Netflix streaming. I’ve gotten a haircut that I’m starting to regret.  I was in a mood where I felt the need to get rid of things, you see.  There just needed to be less, as though that would counterbalance the too-much-ness of the past several months.  I don’t have a ton of clothes, and certainly not a lot that I don’t wear, so a closet purge wasn’t really an option.  And while I have a surfeit of books, I can’t exactly get rid of them.  So I got rid of a lot of hair.  It was longer than it had been in years and years.  Now I look like a cross between Rachel Maddow and a Bunddeutsches Mädel.  Ah, well.  Barring catastrophe, hair tends to grow back.

Also, I made Exam Jam as a thank-you gift for my committee.  One batch was the also freshly-minted Master Garrett’s strawberry and wine jam (not pictured).  The other was a sublime strawberry-rhubarb from Kaela; with relatively little sugar and a healthy dose of lemon juice and zest, you can really taste the fruits.  Yummm.

Rollin' in the deep cast iron pot

Secret Ingredient: O+ Blood.

Our local farmer’s market is bursting with beautiful, crisp rhubarb.  Swoon.

The really exciting item on the agenda now is planning the wedding cake for my aunt’s wedding.  I’ll be traipsing back below the Mason-Dixon line next week and baking the cake for her 100-guest wedding.  It’ll be three tiers, with three layers each:  almond-hazelnut with white chocolate mousse filling; lemon poppyseed with lemon curd filling; and lavender-rose-vanilla with lavender-rose-raspberry jelly filling.  And a swiss buttercream frosting.  I’m super-excited.  I’ve baked two wedding cakes before, but they were both smaller, so this will be the largest one yet.  Since I need to take my heavy-duty kitchenaid mixer to do it, I’m taking the train — a 17 hour journey!  But I love train travel, and the immediacy of the experience of space and time.  As a double-plus bonus, I discovered that the mixer fits in my smallest suitcase!

Yeah, I can't imagine getting this one through security.

To give you a sense of the epic scale of this project, check out my shopping list for when I’m down South (there are other things I’m buying up here, like Rosewater and lots and lots of nuts, since I’m not sure I can find them down in my Natal Village):

US Butter : 24 sticks (6 lb)
APF: 10 lb (?)
Cake flour: 2 boxes
Sugar  (10 lb bag)
Eggs: 4 doz plus 2 c whites
Brown Sugar
Vanilla Extract
Whole Milk (7 c)
Cream (8 c)
Buttermilk (1 ¼ c plus ⅓ c)
Baking powder
Creme fraiche (2.25 c)

White chocolate (3 lb)
10 lemons + 15 (or bottled juice?)

So, stay tuned for those misadventures!  Also, I found out a friend is expecting, so baby knitting projects to come!


Friday, 6 May 2011 § 2 Comments

All But Dissertation.  (Or, in the re-wording of a friend, All But Dead.)

You say Masters, I say Mistress.  This is what a mistress of history looks like:

Why yes, that is tequilla behind me.

After the exams, I invited some fellow historians to my adviser’s office for a little drink.  Eileen brought a fabulous hat from the theater shop, which will make a repeat appearance at tomorrow evening’s Harlequin Romance themed party.

The weird thing about these exams, and that I guess nobody can ever know until they’re over, is that the anticipation is so much worse than the actual exam is.  The couple of days before my orals were hellish.  I went through approximately a third of a box of tissues.  I re-read my essays and chased down citations and rehearsed answers to questions I imagined might be posed to me.  I frantically re-read notes on Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg and the Bourbon restoration and the 1905 Revolution and Flaubert.  I read book reviews for some of the books I skipped.  And I cried.  A lot.

And then the exam came.  I wore my ass-kickin boots.  There were moments that really sucked.  The Absolute Professor asked me one question that I really should have known the answer to — it’s [apparently] crucial for my dissertation.  And I had no. godforsaken. idea. what the answer was.  She said something to the effect of, “I can’t believe you don’t know this.”  I hung my head in shame.  We moved on.  There were other moments where I felt totally in control.  There were a few where I was frustrated by what was going on but knew it wasn’t actually about me.  And there were even a couple of really funny moments.  Like when I was sort of fumbling a question, and one of the people on my committee, who is fabulous and was clearly thinking along with me,  made a comment about an idea she had.  The Absolute Professor turned to her and said, “[that prof’s name]! You already have your PhD! Keep your mouth shut!”  It was hilarious.

And so anyhow, we spend three years in reverent dread of these exams.  And then they happen.  And then they’re over.  Weird.  Maybe the worst part is knowing that you won’t fail, but still feeling like maybe you actually deserve to.  I said this to a professor yesterday, and he said anyone worth their salt feels that way.  Which is sort of reassuring, I guess.

The Barefoot Rooster became a mistress of history today, too.  This is what the lush life of mistresses looks like:

Best. Fries. Ever.

And this is what te world looks like:

Here comes the sun, do-do-do-do

Proverbs 24:17

Tuesday, 3 May 2011 § 5 Comments

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”

This is a line from a Christian Science Monitor article by Jonathan Zimmerman, which captures so well the response I have to last night’s news about bin Laden’s death.  (I know I promised a knitting post, but I’m sure you’ll understand that some things must wait.)  That, and this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

I posted this on facebook earlier, long with the disclaimer for my reactionary facebook friends (and, more specifically, family members) that this is not at all to suggest that I think it’s a crying shame that bin Laden is dead.  On the contrary: I don’t.  Not at all.  But I do think that sobriety and solemnity are more becoming responses than this sort of carnivalesque nationalism we’ve seen in the past twenty-four hours.  If part of the god-bless-America story is that we’re better than those people who dance in the streets when their enemies — yes, including “us” Americans — are killed, since when are we the “kind of people” who dances in the streets?

Now, both of my brothers are in the military, and so was my dad, and so was my granddad.  I might have ended up in the military, too, had puberty not rendered my eyes too weak to be a Navy pilot (this was before they accepted Lasik-20/20).  And one of my brothers was once in a unit similar to the Navy Seals, which we today learned was the core of the group that took out bin Laden.  All that to say, parts of this hit close enough to home — plenty of kids I went to school with have died in Afghanistan and Iraq — to make this more real than political slogans.  And one of the things that has kept me going through my exams is the knowledge that we have been through worse.  So much worse.  A picture of my brother in desert fatigues, in Iraq in the summer of “the Surge,” hangs beneath my fancy-schmancy college diploma dated to the same summer.  As much as I think my exams have been soul-crushing, I remind myself that what was really soul-crushing was not knowing how to believe I would ever see my brother alive again, and having that feel like betrayal.  Soul-crushing was having nightmares about not knowing what to say in a eulogy about a brother I hadn’t seen for almost two years.  Soul-crushing was listening to  a professor in a comp lit class laugh at her witticism at comparing W. to the inadequate, emasculated father, who couldn’t provide “toys” (armored vehicles) to his soldier-sons.  My brother was about to be one of those solider-sons.  Was I really supposed to laugh?  The realities of these wars, and what they’re supposed-to-be-but-are-not about, are something that has been terribly real to me every single day of my ever-loving life, ever since they started.  And it shouldn’t take that horror to make them so real to everyone else.

Which is why I am so upset by the obscenity of the celebrations at the news of bin Laden’s death.  Again, it’s not even that I think we should necessarily be reverent at the news of his death.  It’s that, as much as I appreciate symbolism, even that of political violence, it’s that this triumphalism is completely out of scale to how little is changed by bin Laden’s death.  This hubristic orgy substitutes what is easy — flag-waving and and slogan-chanting — for what is difficult — critical thought and realistic reflection.  Is this turn of events symbolic? Sure.  But nobody should be deluding themselves into thinking this actually changes much in terms of the al-Qaeda terror syndicate.  That’s part of the problem of post-modern [religious] terror (more on this later).  And frankly, it’s unbecoming.  Even if this counts as a “victory,” and even if it did change a lot — this sort of mindless sheeple mass politics should not be a healthy substitute for reflection.  Can I get some Hannah Arendt up in here, yo?

I worry about what this triumphalist narrative does for foreign policy from here on out.  Are we really going to believe this story we’re telling ourselves today?  I only hope, insha’allah,  it doesn’t take another disaster to make us all realize that the reality we’re left with is much more complex than a “hey, hey, hey — goodbye” chant would make it seem.

Champagne Socialists.

Sunday, 1 May 2011 § 2 Comments

Debut, les damnés de la terre!

Nous ne sommes pas les forçats de la faim.  Parce que nous avons brunché.  (Seriously?  How can the French not have a word for “to brunch?”)

Oh hai! I’m back.  I finished my last written exam last Wednesday night and have been a slothful wretch ever since.  I was doing that thing where you hide under a rock with your elbows out and have ’60s protest music playing on endless repeat.  (You mean you don’t ever do that?)  So I invited my buddies over for May Day Brunch this morning.

Champagne Socialist Solidarity: You're doing it right.

It was the absolute best way a person could spend a May morning.  This week instead of baking my bread dough into loaves, I rolled it out into a half-sheet pan, retarded it in the refrigerator, and stamped out english muffins.  I couldn’t find my round cookie cutters, so I used flowers.  Clearly.  (Then the Barefoot Rooster reminded me that canning jar lids work very well when one can’t find cookie cutters, so I made some round ones, too.)

But here are some of the flowers.

I used these to recreate my favorite breakfast sandwich from a restaurant in Providence: toasted english muffin, olive tapenade, goat cheese, roasted red pepper, griled tofu.  Mmmmmm.

Anyhow, socialism and socializing: perfect post-exam-funk remedy.

My oral exam is this Thursday, and while I meant to spend the intervening week preparing — I just can’t bring myself to.  I definitely put at least two books I haven’t read on the syllabi I wrote for two of the exams, so I figure I probably ought to read them.  But oh gosh.  My eyes are still bloodshot from the last few weeks.  I ran into an anthro comrade a few times in the wee small hours at the library last week, and each time he asked if I was okay, because it looked like I had been crying.  And — at least directly before those encounters — I hadn’t!  But I’ll have to force my eyes to read again soon, at least to review what I wrote, I guess.

And so what have I been doing in my slothful days?  Knitting!  I’ll post a picture tomorrow once I weave in the ends, but, inspired by the lovely Eileen’s shrug, I knit a similar one.  Because (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) I’ve decided what dress I’m wearing to my orals, and it’s sleeveless!  And any southern lady worth her pearls knows that you don’t go to places of worship or places of work with bare shoulders; it just ain’t fittin.  So I knit a little sweater-ish thingie to go with it.  Gender: ur performin it right, lulz.