Sunday, October 18, 2020

unfortunate events

 It's day 3, and my bathroom now merely smells like an overzealous user of cologne instead of a mall full of Abercrombie and Fitches.

Friday, when I was rustling around in my cabinet for a hair tie, I knocked a vial of cologne, which fell straight into the sink, cracking and immediately spilling half of its contents down the sink before I could snatch it back.

I'd bought this cologne 7 or more years ago when I decided I wanted to try wearing a little bit of something scented. I would use a drop of the cologne, otherwise it would be far too strong. Then, when I got pregnant in 2016, my nose no longer could stand any kind of fragrance or scent, so I hadn't really used it, but I couldn't bring myself to give it away or throw it out.

I threw the broken cologne bottle in the trash, where the fragrance wafted through the halls, and then hid back downstairs. Meanwhile, the fragrance that spilled down the drain was permeating the bathroom. Thus, where we ended up: attempting to disperse strong fragrance with the help of the vent fan, an air purifier, and an open window.

The fragrance lingers on.

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Yesterday, we took a trip out. While we are still cautious--likely more cautious than most folks, who seem to be returning to normal--we are trying to find ways to balance our caution with being hemmed in and frustrated with being home all the time. So yesterday, we decided to pick up lunch and run some errands. I needed to drop off letters I wrote for the Big Send (from Swing Left) and mail a few packages.

I walked into the lobby, and quickly calculated that it wouldn't take too long, so I quickly got into line (and was next). (I'd use the automated postage center, but it doesn't allow you to send media mail so the packages would be far too expensive to send otherwise). Unfortunately, when I looked to my left, a woman without a mask was standing, waiting for something. She seemed to be trying to stay away from folks, but the fact that she had no mask was initially troubling. But then she started sneezing. At that point, I was committed and nearly done with my task, but ugggh.

Then, a dude walked up with a mask below his nose. Meanwhile, the clerk started adjusting her mask.

I'm a committed rule-follower, so all of this was really hard to handle. Then layer in the fact that these behaviors actively put everyone around them at risk...well, it made my brain break a little.

Ultimately, I was in the post office for very little time (less than 10 minutes), but it felt like forever, leaving me with the feeling that my hands were filthy. I don't have OCD or anxiety disorders that connect with contamination or fears of germs, so I definitely sympathize with folks who are likely having an even harder time right now with everything.

Now I just feel like hiding in my house for always, especially since the weather changes plus the strong fragrances wafting through the house has me sneezing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

PUMPKIN-SPICE EVERYTHING

I'm a sucker for pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and all things that signal the advent of fall. Traditionally, I even have a few PSLs (or, my new love for last year, the pumpkin spice cold brew, which I couldn't have much of since I was incubating a human and they sort of frown on drinking too much caffeine. Although, one supposed issue with excessive caffeine consumption in pregnancy is a smaller baby, so apparently I didn't drink too much because he was a chunker). Or the cheapskate's version of a PSL, which is brewed coffee with a pump of pumpkin-spice syrup and cream. Anyway, the pandemic means I'm avoiding things like coffee shops, and if we opt to pick-up coffee, we want to support our local coffee shops instead, so no PSLs here.

However, I can make my own PSLs without having to worry about the 'rona. This past weekend, the weather turned of cold, with gray skies and rain and everything. Nearly overnight, the trees responded to this signal to either drop their leaves or change their colors, and the rain washed away the lingering smoke from the fact that the entire West is on fire because of the potent mix of climate change, mismanagement, and other problems. But I digress. For me, though, this was also a signal to initiate pumpkin-spice season.

First, I thawed out a container of pumpkin puree in the freezer, and since it was a little thin, I cooked it down a bit (this has been the best trick for making homemade puree work the best in recipes, and the flavor is fantastic!). After it cooked down and cooled, we took some of it to make vegan pumpkin waffles (from this book), and then I made my favorite pumpkin spice syrup from Oh She Glows, and pumpkin teff pancakes from this book. Oh, and I of course had to whip up some pumpkin spice to pop into my Trader Joe's jar that I've been reusing because making a spice blend is super easy and cheap.

These recipes, combined with the cooling weather, made me feel peak cozy. The pumpkin spice syrup is tasty, and you can change up the levels of spicing as you like--I added ground ginger, which ended up a bit heavy, so I added more cinnamon to offset it, and it was great. I also like adding a bit of cardamom. And you can use the pumpkin syrup in more than just coffee--I toss some on yogurt as a snack, and I used it on my pumpkin teff pancakes this morning. The preschooler also likes it with warmed milk to make a steamer for a no-caffeine pumpkin-spiced delight.

I think 2020 is the perfect year to just fully lean into the world of pumpkin spice, and I plan to do so with no hesitations.

Monday, October 12, 2020

sourdough weekend

In this week's episode of the Great British Baking Show, during Bread Week, the contestants had to make two loaves of soda bread. Peter, whose brother is gluten intolerant, decided to make his gluten free, and Paul Hollywood complained that it was dry, stodgy, and gummy--and I was like, yeah, it's gluten-free bread.

Honestly, if gluten didn't make my entire digestive tract want to avenge itself on me, I would eat it and be happy. I've been gluten free now for more than 8 years now, and I only sort of miss it when I see the things that you can never make with gluten-free flours (oh, ye laminated pastries!). However, one thing I have managed is delicious bread.



This bread is so good, at least when fresh, that when I served it to friends at a pre-pandemic, pre-baby dinner party, they scarfed down most of the loaf. Unfortunately, gluten-free bread is tastiest on its first day of baking, and if you buy it in the store, it's already old and thus dry as the toast you have to make it into to make it palatable.

This bread is a sourdough. When I was pregnant last winter, after the fall semester concluded, I set out to bring a new creature into the house (other than a baby), a sourdough starter. Made up of water, brown rice flour, and time, my sourdough starter began its life, and I began my pursuit of the perfect loaf.

This obsession carried me through the pandemic, ensuring we had bread to eat on a regular basis that didn't have to be procured from the grocery stores we've been avoiding except for a restock every three weeks or so. It's also fun. And now I have two starters--a multigrain one (usually teff, sorghum, and quinoa flour but it varies depending on what I have on hand) and a brown rice one.

Currently, my go-to recipe and technique is from Naomi Devlin, who has a great sourdough course. Devlin, a UK-based cookery teacher, has been experimenting with gluten free and actually has been teasing me with the promise of laminated, flaky pastry to tempt me to buy another course from her. Her recipe and methods also informed my other go-to book, Aran Goyoaga's Cannelle et Vanille, which is just a marvelous cookbook.

Anyway, I had neglected my starter for a few weeks as I have been immersed in trying to keep up with my classes while working from home and being the primary calorie source for a rather plump baby, so I decided to bake two loaves--a boule and a sandwich loaf, just to see.

I'm still working on the right temperatures for everything. Our oven is obnoxious and doesn't keep good temperatures and heats all wacky, so it's a bit hard to pin down. This time, I think I ran the oven a bit too hot to start, since the boule got a bit darker faster than I would like, but overall both loaves were lovely. The preschooler happily eats it with salted butter and the grape jelly L made with grapes from the community garden.



While gluten-free bread can never fully stack up to the ease and simplicity of a wheat-based loaf, I'm glad I've found a good approach to bread that isn't stodgy, dry, and gummy.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Pandemic Diaries, May 2020

 Early in quarantine, I jotted some notes:

May 9

Life as a parent of two  young children while a pandemic rages on around us: Well, this is not how I thought I'd be spending our spring and summer with a new baby.

Today: L goes to the farmers' market to get produce and plants. If this were last year, next year, we'd all go--I can see it. The preschooler running up to the granola seller to get a sample, then begging L for a bit of pastry, asking me to buy him a popsicle. Me, wearing the baby on my chest, perhaps stopping to nurse or to sit and eat my own treat or sip my coffee. L darting through the market because he hates standing still, choosing plants for the garden and veggies to eat. We meet friends, we wander blissfully.

But, no.

Today, he went to the drive-thru farmers' market pick-up. He had ordered ahead, reserved a slot. Mask ready, he loaded the groceries and went to get other produce. He washes his hands in the kitchen sink when he returns, carefully counting and lathering thoroughly with the castile soap we made a few years ago. The kids and I stay home, yet another day out of many. It's now and tomorrow and many months ahead of us.

May 10 (Mother's Day)

Today's human contact: Zoom barre3 with my local studio. I don't like my video to be on when I'm working out, so I wait until the end to turn on my camera, to connect with the studio owner or others in the class. It's Mothers' Day, and I relish the hour where I can move my body freely, even as I am still recovering from the baby's birth.

My present from L was not only a nice bag of goodies from the local bookstore but also a way to support that bookstore in a pandemic, which is a sign of how we are making choices these days, trying to keep our communities alive and thriving.

I had a long video call with my mom, and it ended with us talking about racism. I have hope that maybe she won't vote for [UGH], maybe. Or at least she doesn't buy into his crap. I can hope, which is all we can do in these horrible, strange times.

May 16

One day, I couldn't get the image out--a cup, filled up with steaming coffee; a waiter coming by to pour. They did not have gloves, a mask, a fear of a virus (or of transporting one). No, just the simplicity of pouring and drinking, paying, tipping, enjoying.

So today, I ordered coffee and pastries from one of my favorite local coffee shops for pick-up [ordered and paid online! the convenience!], the pleasure of a well-made cup of coffee ours once again. We took it to The Depot to enjoy in the spring sunshine. Though a bit chilly, I was warmed by the pleasure of such a small semblance of normalcy. The baby sat in the carrier he's been in just a few times; the preschooler ran wildly through the grass and clambered on rocks, pointing out the water, a ball he found, the fish, the bubbles.

I know we must continue to isolate, but we are seeking out safe ways to feel less restrained, to lighten the weight of isolation and loneliness. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

October in a Panic

In a text with my mom, I told her how old the baby now was (hint: not so tiny), and she remarked about how time flies. And part of me was yes, absolutely, it does seem like just yesterday that the second child was born--but it also seems like 100 years ago and in a different age because it was a pre-pandemic (or BC--before corona).

Also, I suspect this next month is going to drag until we find out the results of the election.

I revived this blog in part because I've been enjoying a friend's sabbatical blog, and I realized  I missed writing that wasn't creating content for online classes or sending notes to my senators for them to ignore. But I also wanted to revive a space to just...talk about things I think are interesting and to find joy in writing again.

Today, the air is filled with smoke, and so we are inside. It's likely the last warmer day for a while, but I don't mind the impending cooling weather because it'll remove the smoke (I hope) and it means I can wear sweaters and give into my pumpkin-spiced desires. I'm trying to find the joy where I can, in writing and in pumpkins, so that I can focus on the things that are currently going well instead of the impending sense of doom or the moments of panic I keep experiencing.

I have these moments of panic because our country is a dumpster fire being presided over by a white supremacist and our democracy truly feels threatened. My poor students are just trying to hang on, and I'm spending all my work days just trying to help them learn and reassure them that I'll accept anything they want to turn in but having so many of them fall behind. The work I want to do--research, applying for conferences, applying for sabbatical, applying for grants--is constantly on the back burner as I dump all of my time and energy into teaching and service.

But, in a Zoom call with friends on Monday, I was reminded that the doom cycle isn't always productive. We could spend all the time bemoaning our current fates--and it's ok to do that sometimes--but one friend also reminded me that things are not all bad. And it was a good jolt out of the doom cycle and focus on negativity. I'm healthy, my family is healthy, I'm employed, I have sufficient money to donate to the preservation of democracy and help those in need, I have work I love and is meaningful. And, better yet, weirdly the pandemic has been helping me connect more to those who are far away, who I haven't connected to in a while, like the two friends on my Zoom call Monday, or the two friends I Zoomed with over the weekend, or the people I call on the phone.

The pandemic helped me get over my reluctance to call people on the phone, a major achievement!

So, yes, it all sucks, but there are also some bright spots, like the promise of cooler, cleaner air that is coming soon, the waft of fall on the air, and the impending pumpkin-based delights that the weekend will bring. And this blog will likely cycle between the doom and the joy, depending on what I need or am interested in, but hopefully it'll also be a space to just connect again with things that I enjoy and people who matter to me.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Community

When I started telling people I was pregnant, I realized I was both forming and joining a new community: the community of moms. I loved it--women whose children were adults to those who had smaller ones were eager to welcome me, sharing their experiences, and reminiscing about what it was like for them to be a new mom or to raise a kid.

This notion of community is one that has driven much of my life. One reason we decided Boise would be a good fit was the potential for community--I saw how I'd be friends with so many people from my department and that there would many others who would let us be part of their home. Now that we've been here a year, this is definitely the case.

Yet, joining new communities doesn't mean I have to leave the old ones behind. We are making new friends here, but we are also still rooted in our community in Fayetteville. We spent most of June there, celebrating weddings, our new baby, and enjoying the friendships we've had for a long time.

I love being part of a number of communities, be they academic, family, or friend-based. These communities are notable for the mutual support they provide and the joy they bring. And now we're jumping into a new community of parents, and I'm excited to see what we discover.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Times are a'changin'

My last post was all about resolutions. Little did I know at the same time (well, I did know, but it was very early) that I would be going through a major life change--that I would be having a baby this year.

Now it's July, and I'm in my 28th week (the start of the third trimester). Pregnancy has been fascinating as a physical and emotional (and feminist!) experience, and I'm enjoying this time for sure. Currently, I'm feeling my baby move around (s/he seems to respond more and more to noise, touch, etc--was stretching along with me in prenatal yoga this morning!). I'm also at the point where it seems my body changes at an almost daily rate--the week-to-week growth is definitely noticeable.

2015 (and 2016) have been times of change: I started my first post-graduate school job in 2015, which I love, in a new city in the West, which I also enjoy. While I definitely miss my AR friends and family, we are making new friends and connections in Boise. After nearly a year here, it's been a positive change, and the baby is adding yet another good--but BIG!--change to our lives. We are now considering buying a house just to really throw a wrench in things (ha!).

I'll talk more about some of my thoughts on pregnancy, pending motherhood, academia, exercise, feminism, and more in future posts.