Archive for September, 2009

Catching (up) fire

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I fell into a deep trance after reading all the books in the His Dark Materials series.  I couldn’t for the life of me think of anything to follow those books up with.  I tried Lyra’s Oxford, also by Pullman, but there were two problems with it: 1) it was maybe 45 pages long and 2) it was a major let-down (although the etchings in it are incredible).  Then, just my luck!, my requested copy of Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs came in.

Major dork confession: I love being the first person to check a book out.  Only I had touched that book (other than, you know, catalogers and circ people).  Either way, I LOVE IT.  I love that feeling.  Fresh pages and only one stamp in the back–ahhhh, yes.  I have adored Lorrie Moore for years, and her newest book did not let me down.  Lorrie Moore was the writer I always wanted to be (when I wanted to be a writer).  I can’t begin to guess how many short stories I wrote in the second person in college writing workshops because of her.  I sometimes fear that short story writers can’t break out of the short story form, and after reading Moore’s fairly disappointing Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and her also kind of disappointing novel Anagrams, I felt sure that Moore was one of those who just plain can’t.  And I was okay with that, because I can’t begrudge her talent in short story form.

But, alas, and thankfully, A Gate at the Stairs surprised me.  I can’t say that it held my interest fully throughout.  There are lines within that dazzled me and aspects of the story that I found completely marvelous, yet about 50 pages from the end I wanted OUT (This seems to be a common trait in novels by people who usually write short stories.  A surprising talent for long-windedness.).  Moore loves puns & plays on words–I’ve read reviews that chide her for this (her writing in Anagrams, in particular, had a tendency to get carried away with punning).  She is sneakily funny, and has the rare and exciting ability to make you laugh so hard AND break your heart in one sentence.  I can’t think of a writer who writes better characters than Moore (Tassie, in Moore’s latest, is no exception), and I hopehopehope that I get to see more of her characters in the future.

While mourning the end of His Dark Materials, I also caught up on the newest installation to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy–Catching FireI wrote about the first book in this series a few weeks ago, and the second book was just as exciting.  These are begging to be made into a movie someday and I am already excited about it.  I’d definitely recommend this series to more mature young teen readers (I say more mature because even I am a little uncomfortable with some of the blood/drama in this series).

I’m currently about 20 pages from the end of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, which I am lingering over & don’t want to finish, ever.  This is an exceptional book.  I think I have mentioned this before, but Butler’s female characters are out of this world tough and are very much inspirational.  I don’t know how to describe this book.  It’s about time travel & slavery & so much more.  2 thumbs up.

A food I eat constantly

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Enough people have asked me for this recipe that it’s time to just post it.  It’s from La Dolce Vegan! (the teal book), which has continued to impress me with amazing salad recipes for years & years.  Also my favorite cookie recipe is from here.  I usually find Sarah Kramer extremely annoying but she is lower key in this book, which might be why I am so willing to peruse it often and make tasty goods like this quinoa black bean salad.

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flax/hemp oil (I omit this.  Who needs this much oil?  Not me.)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (if you are like me, this isn’t enough.  I dump at least a whole tsp on this guy.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper
  • Additional note: I add a butt-load of cumin.  Cumin is the tastiest spice in the drawer and I put it on just about everything.  It is a necessity on this salad.

Salad:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 can of rinsed black beans
  • 2 green onions minced (Go all out here.  2 isn’t enough!)
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk chopped (Again, go all out here.  The more the crunchier and therefore the better.)
  • 1/4 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1/4 C. cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 C. frozen corn niblets (The recipe calls for frozen corn, but you know what, it’s summer and gorgeous ears of corn can be found just about anywhere.  Just boil one yourself and cut the kernels off, like I used to do when I had braces & couldn’t eat corn on the cob.)

Directions:

Cook the quinoa.  While it’s cooking, stir together the beans, onions, tomatoes, celery, green peppers, avocado & cilantro in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, chili powder, salt & pepper (AND CUMIN!).  Once quinoa is done, remove from heat and stir in the corn.  Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.  Remove lid & let quinoa cool.  Add quinoa & dressing to salad and toss together well.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

This makes a ton of salad.  It will provide you with leftovers for at least 4 meals (unless you have an eating machine bf like OMC.  Then you will have leftovers for, like, a tiny snack.)  It’s still summer, guys!  Eat like it!

epic purging!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

In efforts to be a better version of myself, I am getting rid of all of my life clutter.  I am doing this for three reasons:

  1. feng shui (dorky, I know–but it really does feel good to be rid of all this junk in my life)
  2. less stuff to move when I move away (crossing fingers)
  3. people actually give me money for things like season 3 of the show 24!

Also it feels nice to give people things that you suspect they might like that you never use anymore.  I gave my roommate a bunch of old goofy cds & tapes (a cassette of Dookie!  this made his day!) and he is so excited to have some silly things I thought no one would ever want.  This is probably good for my feng shui, too.  Next I will be clapping in corners and weird things like that.

I have weeded out the following things from my life:

  1. lots of things on VHS.  Aspects of this were heartbreaking.  I was really attached to some of my movies (like Independence Day.  Go figure.)
  2. most of my CDs.  I kept things that I am deeply attached to and things that are extra-special because of the artwork (like this Menomena album I seriously can’t part with for the life of me.)
  3. socks.  These I just threw out.  I don’t think anybody wants my awful old socks.  Some of these socks have been around since high school.  I distinctly remember ordering one pair with sparkly snowflakes from the Delia’s catalog in 7th grade.  Those are in the garbage now.  Where they belong.
  4. t-shirts.  For some reason I felt compelled in high school & college to collect t-shirts with “ironic” slogans.  Most of these were ill-fitting.  They now live at the Monroeville Goodwill, in case you feel like you need a boxy t-shirt with some stupid sports slogan on it.
  5. things that don’t fit me.  I have had it with myself: no more keeping stuff around in my closet “in case it fits someday”.  I do this constantly.  But no more.  All of this went to Goodwill.  Some of this stuff had never been worn.  Let this be a punishment to me: don’t buy stuff that doesn’t fit just because it has a cute pattern or something.
  6. books!  This was SO hard to do.   I got rid of old textbooks (I swore I would never do this, but my chances of needing to refer to, like, the quadratic formula are so, so unlikely), books from when I was little and things I just didn’t think I would ever read again.  I didn’t do a good enough job of this.  I still have too many books.  I will be re-doing this.

And there is so much more yet to come.  Next up: shoes.  Boots.  Dresses.   Skirts.  Kitchen stuff.  Maybe even my beloved Bianchi road-bike <3.  I am a packrat.  I know this.  This is hard on me.  But I am trying, and I feel better for it.

When I am not cleaning out my life’s belongings, you can find me on my yellow couch with two dogfriends & the Amber Spyglass, pretending I don’t have insane amounts of homework to do.  Life, you are kind of okay.

Julie & Elaina: not friends

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Pittsburgh has been lovely this week–lovely in a way that is unPittsburgh.  This means I have gone on so many epic walks.  I google-mapped my weekend walks and I am guessing that from Friday to Sunday I walked 15 miles, and an additional 5 yesterday.  I am insane.  I like walks.  My calves are burning.  I also ate like 14 unblighted tomatoes this weekend, which is probably an Elaina-record.

Beautiful Pittsburgh weather also means going boating, which makes me unbelievably happy & sleepy.  I love napping on boats.  Boats are so conducive to naps.  Boats are also conducive to reading trashy books, which I specialize in while boating.  My mom lent me her copy of Julie & Julia while boating on Sunday, and I read the majority of it wrapped in a blanket (like on an Alaskan cruise, I imagine) petting the dog, drinking vodka and eating snacks featuring cheese.  I wouldn’t have read this book under any other circumstances, I don’t think.  This was literally the only book on the boat (I FORGOT THE GOLDEN COMPASS I AM SUCH AN IDIOT) so I kind of had to read it or I would have just napped all day.  I don’t particularly like cooking books/memoirs (I have zero inability to follow people talking about cooking, or sports, or directions to places), and I felt that Julie Powell, more often than not, overwrote things that could have been written more simply (and thus with greater effect).  I found myself skipping every recipe except for the dessert things, which I read while drooling.    Maybe this book is awesome, and it was just lost on me.  I don’t know.  I doubt it.

I would recommend this to people with a greater tolerance for ditzy writing than me, people who can follow recipes without skipping the paragraph, people who can tolerate whining, etc.

HOW AWESOME IS THE GOLDEN COMPASS.  And why have I never read it?  I am so excited about this series.  I feel like I have been unjust in my decisions to never read His Dark Materials until now.  I’m sorry, book gods, I’m really sorry.