Tuesday, August 28, 2012

taking time for tea

I am always hungry in the afternoon.  It never fails, never, that I'm going to be hungry when 4pm rolls around--and it's that awkward time when it's a little too early for dinner, but a piece of fruit isn't quite enough.  I tend to overeat because of this tendency because I get hangry (especially during marathon training) and inhale all the things.

Yesterday, I ate my watermelon for my afternoon snack...and found myself starving at 5.  I forced L to to go eat dinner early, but it didn't really suit either of us.  We tend to prefer to eat later.  So today, I got a little substantial nibble (a piece of morning glory bread and a coffee) when I was at the library working, and I felt fine.  So...I have decided to establish a tea time for L and I, complete with a healthy baked treat.  This will give a chance to do a bit of weekly baking, give me an outlet for a little sweet treat (without overdoing it!), and hopefully solve my hungry problems.

Culturally, tea time is a moment to take a break from work, pause and savor a little tea, a cookie or a scone or a slice of bread.  It's a moment to take a breath before going back to work for a bit longer.  I like this idea a lot.

Tea time this week will be accompanied by these ginger peach scones and probably some chai tea I have in my office:

I found the base recipe in Joy the Baker's cookbook, Joy the Baker Cookbook.  I love her blog, and her cookbook is pretty awesome too.  I had a little nibble as they came out of the oven--crunchy, lovely, delicious.  This will do quite nicely as my first tea time snack.

Oatmeal Ginger Peach Scones
(makes 18 scones)
adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook's Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones


  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I suspect some whole wheat would be good too)
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 3 small/medium peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

 Combine egg and butter milk and set aside.

Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger in a large bowl. Cut in cold butter (or throw it all in the food processor and pulse until the butter is pea-sized).  Mix in buttermilk/egg mixture with a fork or dough whisk until dough comes together.  I ended up using my hands to get it together after I stirred it with the dough whisk, but try not to handle it too much--the secret to a good scone (or a good biscuit) is keeping the butter cold.  Mix in the peaches/fresh ginger.

Using your handy 1/4 cup scoop (which is also fantastic for cupcakes), scoop out the dough onto your cookie sheet (or baking stone, which works fabulously).  I did this because rolling out the dough and cutting it is for suckers (and you then handle it less).

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and top.  Delicious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TV girls

I spent parts of the summer watching decently "bad" TV and not feeling too guilty about it.  I needed a counterbalance to all the theory reading I've been doing, and fluffy, drama-filled shows with implausibly lovely twenty-somethings posing as 16-year-olds fit the ticket.  It started with Pretty Little Liars, a high-school drama/mystery, whose web I found myself entangled in, despite the ridiculousness of some of the story, and the frustration I felt at not being given quite enough clues to begin unraveling the central mystery after two seasons (unlike Veronica Mars...though, perhaps that's why it only made it two seasons).

L mocks me for my mild obsession, but the pacing, the cliffhangers, the nailbiting moments are addictive.  And since I'm an academic in my heart of hearts, I began to analyze it in terms of feminism (of course).  I actually like Pretty Little Liars quite a lot because its central characters are four (well, five sort of) female characters, with plenty of other female character lurking at the edges--and the central four aren't competing with one another for boys or grades or attention.  It's stunning, really.

The female characters are the ones protecting the boys in their lives, not the boys protecting them.  They take on the threats toward themselves and make sacrifices and exhibit bravery.  There are many instances of male characters who are kind and generous and sensitive.  And there's actually one gay character and several peripheral gay characters.  (The show could use a little more diversity, but at least one of the main characters is some indefinite non-white ethnicity).  They talk about drug/alcohol abuse, safe sex, and the difficulties of the gay characters coming out to friends/family.  I think all these things are positive.

While there are still some decidedly non-feminist elements to the show--I mean, the make up and outfits are picture perfect, and there's a fixation on relationships.  There are also some feuds and fighting among the girls in the high school, and fundamentally, the show is about the ways girls keep secrets and stab each other in the back. These characteristics are not positive (and feed the stereotypes of catty teenagers), but they are at least balanced out by the examinations of close female friendships and family relationships.  Although fluffy, it has some interesting dimensions that I may try to explore further.

Netflix threw another show in my direction, so I decided to watch it because it only has a few episodes--Jane by Design.  This show is more traditional: there is one, central female character (Jane), and most of the other female characters are competition for men or power or attention, and they are all bitchy and mean (except for Jane).  This bothered me for reasons stated above: too many shows portray women as incapable of getting along with one another, feeding the stereotype of cat fighting, bitchy girls and women.  Obnoxious.

The show has its charms, however, one of which being the ingenuity and intelligence of Jane and her adorable outfits that she fashions out of various finds (the show has several scenes where she is shown sewing, drawing, and creating her outfits).  The other charm for me was that there was a male/female platonic friendship--there was no indication that they wanted anything more than friendship (they were both interested in other people), and I believe that more shows should portray a male/female friendship without insinuating they want each other (or like How I Met Your Mother, demonstrate that exes can be friends, even with lingering feelings).

However, that shifted in the final episode available on Netflix.  Out of the blue, the male character "realized" he was in love with Jane, shifting the whole dynamic and chemistry between them.  Uggh.  I might keep watching since there are only 6 more episodes, and the show got cancelled, but why did they have to do that?

Finally, the last show I've been watching is Bunheads, a delightful little show by Amy Sherman-Paladino.  The show is like a rebooted Gilmore Girls (with a lot of the same cast), but with a lot more girl power.  All of the central characters are female since they got rid of the one central male character at the end of the pilot, and it moves between the horrible delight of being a teenager and the more adult drama of a woman with no roots or home who suddenly finds herself tied down to a place.  The juxtaposition between the young ballerinas and the adult world expose Michelle's (the main character) nature with her immature tendencies coupled with moments of insight and wisdom drawn from her experiences, making her a unique mentor for the teenage dancers. The show had a ten episode run this summer, but it was picked back up, so I'm interested to see what they do with it--the interaction between Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop is one that can continue to develop in fascinating ways.

A long post, but a bit about some silly TV I've been watching and the ways that women are portrayed...and perhaps should be portrayed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

the first day

It was the first day of school, a day beloved by me and dreaded by others.  I always was eager to begin school, though a little sad at having to say farewell to the easy laziness of summer.  But I can only be idle for so long, and I always look forward to getting back to a structured, scheduled life.

And my students.  I can't tell you how much I love teaching, and how much I look forward to meeting each of my new students.  Getting to know them. Learning what kind of writer they are, what kind of person.  I like them a lot at this point of the semester, with their eager, young faces. Knowing that they likely have set goals for themselves that I can possibly help them accomplish.  It's a kind of delight, the new semester, and the fall semester is always more glistening than the spring.  Fresher.

I taught very early this morning.  Well, first days are usually all about taking care of business, passing out syllabi, learning names and faces.  I woke up at 4:50am, got in a 4 mile run (what?), and copied my syllabus before being in class at 7:30am.  Luckily, I'm a morning person, and teaching always fuels me with a kind of energy that's hard to find in a cup of coffee.

I'm sleepy now, though, and the day's barely half over.  I headed over to my new apartment office to try to work.  I organized the space as best I could, though I discovered the troubling absence of trash cans, file cabinets, and hand soap, and the even more troubling presence of spiders and dead bugs.  And the place is a bit filthy.  And empty--just me here all day.  I miss the camaraderie of my old office, with the regular stream of students and fellow TAs and faculty members wandering by and saying hello.  While I'm a bit (very) disgruntled by the change, I'm trying to make the best of it and be positive.  It'll only make me miserable if I dislike the space.  Luckily, I have other campus haunts and alternative working spaces.

This semester is all about trying to figure out a good schedule for myself, since I'm not taking classes any more, but I have to read a mountain of books.  But for today, I'm enjoying the first day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The beginning of the thirties

I kept starting this post in my head and never quite got it going...until today. I kept telling the gals on the run this morning that I had things to say that I want to write a post about, but hadn't yet.  Ooops.

So...I'm now thirty years old.  It's seem surreal to me.  I had a teacher in eighth grade who turned thirty, and I remember thinking back then (at age 14) that thirty sounded so old.  This teacher was unmarried and had no kids, which I thought that was weird.  She seemed on her way "downhill," and hadn't even done major things yet!  Why did she seem so cool with her aging and impending decline?

Fast forward 16 years and my perspective on thirty has changed for the better. (If I still believed what I believed when I was 14...well, we'd have other problems).  I no longer see thirty as the beginning of the end or anything silly like that--in fact, it seems like there's so much still ahead of me.  I'm in this wonderful phase of life where I've accomplished a lot, but I still have so much yet to do.  I'm young.  I really am--and I generally still get carded when I go to the bars (yes, I know they card everyone under 40. But I can still feel happy about it).

I still can't quite wrap my head around being 30, though.  I mean, when I turned 20, I might have felt the same way, like whoa, I'm no longer a teenager.  Being in my twenties defined me for, well, ten years, so it's strange to take on the new identity of being in the thirties.  Perhaps it's also a little anticlimactic: I heard tales of those who freaked out a little upon hitting thirty, but I felt strangely disconnected from any sense of panic.  Instead, I felt weird because I didn't feel any alarm about entering my thirties, but I thought maybe I should.

Today, I assisted with graduate student orientation, and one of the newbies made a comment about not reminding him that he was about to turn 24.  Ha, I thought, 24 is nothing.  The twenties were a great part of my life--especially my mid to late-twenties--and I won't forget them.  But now that I'm into the thirties, I believe I'm entering a new, perhaps even richer, stage, and I can't wait to see what's in store for me.

My mom baked me a chocolate Kahlua cake, shaped like a cupcake. Yum.
Actual birthday: So how'd it go, you might ask?  Well, it was low key.  I had kicked around an idea to go somewhere or do something cool, but it turns out that my lack of income this summer put a bit of a damper on that.  I didn't want a big party because I did that last year--and it was too hot to do what I really wanted to go do, which was to hang out at the lake/river and have a summer picnic.

Instead, I spent a lot of Saturday with my parents, which I enjoyed.  It'd be a while since my birthday had been celebrated with them, and it made me remember back to my childhood birthdays.  With five kids in the family, I didn't often get to do what I wanted, and birthdays were the one day that we got to be the center of attention and pick what we wanted to eat and do.  It was marvelous, and I was happy to have a reminder of those happy childhood memories.

My dad made me this awesome airplane from "Drank" cans.

Yes, I baked my own cake. Isn't it lovely?
On my actual birthday, we had breakfast out and a generally relaxed day. We hosted potluck, and I baked my own cake.  Most people were appalled at first when I told them this.  I love birthday cakes, though, and I love baking them. L is usually in charge of my birthday dessert, though, and he likes to make crazy, creative, awesome treats--but rarely a birthday cake.  I love what he makes, but I always miss having a cake, so I decided this year, I would make my own.  And make bunting to put on top of it because, bunting is totally in right now.

I thought about it all week, carefully selected the recipe...and baked it, using fancy chocolate and everything.  It was a vanilla date triple layer cake with a chocolate sour cream frosting.  Everyone who ate it loved it, and I was happy.

Overall, a relaxed and quiet birthday.  I might have to make up for it next year and celebrate 31 with a BANG.