Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Cupcake-y-ness

More pictures than words, because I'm quite tired. But, I wanted to post my Thanksgiving goodness.

Here's a totally cute picture of my brother and sister:

These are two of the Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes. One with candied walnuts and one with toasted marshmallows. They were quite good but next time I'll add more sweet potato puree. For several reasons.

And finally, a picture of me and my ginormous glass of egg nog. My previous experience with egg nog was not good, but our host encouraged me to try it again. It's actually palatable. Quite nice, even.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Very Best Kind of Surprise

Ah, 'tis Thanksgiving Eve. (Is it still 'eve' all day on the day before something spectacular, or does that just come about the night of the day before something spectacular? In any case...)

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and I'm very excited about this year's festivities. Last year was great too, don't get me wrong. We had a big potluck dinner with a bunch of grad students that stayed here over break, and it was nice to be able to hang out with friends on Thanksgiving. However, I pre-gamed Thanksgiving last year with work on an annotated bibliography for one of my courses. Then I finished that annotated bibliography on Friday. So, nice, yes. But I think this Thanksgiving is going to blow that Thanksgiving out of the water. Here are my reasons for thinking so:

1. My sister is here!

Instead of driving for 5+ hours to get from her school in PA to home in VA, Jessica decided to fly one hour from PA to ME. She found a cheap ticket and here she is. I've been planning for her 7 day stay for weeks now. She visited ME this summer, so the list of possible activities is greatly changed now in winter.

2. My brother is here!

Now, I was NOT planning for this. Yesterday, I giddily met up with my sister in the classic big-smile-wave-from-afar-followed-by-big-hug airport reunion. Arm in arm we took the escalator down to baggage claim and talked about carry-on bag size and the necessity of a checked bag. The conversation seems silly now, but it made sense at the time.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder paired with a question about luggage or something ridiculous. Sure that some Mainer was asking me a stupid question, I wheeled around to see a young guy much taller than me standing rather close for a stranger. My first reaction?: "Why would one of my students approach me in the airport? Honestly?!" My second reaction?: OMGflurgyabnogyah, it's my brother!

And like Jessica reported from her surprised reaction in the PA airport, I said something along the lines of "How are you here?!"

Of course by this point I was crying. And I did not expect that either. So, I'm standing in the airport with my brother and sister, crying, and thinking how fully I have now turned into my mother, when the baggage claim track begins to move. In perfect Maine fashion, it produces maybe 7 or 8 pieces of luggage and stops, stranding those 7 or 8 pieces of luggage on the farthest bit of the carousel. As Jessica and Joshua walked around to claim their baggage, I stood, sniffling with Jessica's oversized Vera and composed myself.

This, I knew, was going to be the best Thanksgiving on record.

3. I am making Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes.

Now, it may seem silly to rank a cupcake with the presence of my brother and sister, but it you feel that way then you obviously have not been paying attention. If that is the case, I'll catch you up. I <3 baking cupcakes. I've been planning this particular cupcake for about two weeks. The recipe looks fantastic and I've made a very similar pumpkin cake that allows me to feel confident about the result of this recipe.

So there you have it. These are the three most readily available reasons why Thanksgiving is going to rock this year.

Now I have to compile a grocery list with my sister while brother takes full advantage of the rare opportunity to sleep in.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve everyone! <3

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nine Observations from the AMAs

1. Kanye West is wearing an outfit that my brother wore in high school.

2. Rihanna's dress is wildly inappropriate.

3. Billy Ray Cyrus' hair is reminiscent of one of our favorite friends. He will henceforth be referred to as Anistan.

4. Enrique Iglesias now looks like one Victoria Beckham transitioning with the help of testosterone. He will henceforth be referred to as Tranny Spice.

5. Beyonce defied the laws of gravity and several sciences by keeping everything in that "Single Ladies" outfit.

6. Annie Lennox has my hair. Or, what I want my hair to be.

7. Natasha Bedingfield demonstrated the problems with emo bangs once and for all. Did you see the fan blowing moment???

8. Rihanna made up for the gauzey/floppy dress with the head-banging in "Rehab."

9. P!nk singing "In the Arms of the Angel" made my week. On Sunday.

Well, I'd say that the AMAs were completely worth watching.

Now I'm Pissed.

And here's why.

I think I am getting another cold. And I know exactly who to blame this time.

My last cold probably came from my coworker. Or maybe a friend. But there is no question about this cold. This cold came from my sniffing, hacking, 'can-I-meet-with-you-about-what-I-missed?' students.

Of course.

Ironically, my roommate alerted me to this Yahoo! posting early last week. Apparently Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the U. of Arizona, released what he believes to be the top 10 germiest professions.

Ringing in at number 1 is, you guessed it!, Teachers and DayCare providers. Yippee. Woohoo. Sniffle.

Turns out we encounter more germs than meatpackers, sanitary workers, janitors and animal control officers. However, we are barely past the germy folks behind our computers and cash registers. So, I guess the lesson to be gleaned from this most recent cold is twofold.

1. Students (and people in general) are massive carriers of disease.

2. I either need to change something or be prepared to lose a weekend every few weeks to couch sitting and bad tv watching with a box of tissues and much orange juice.

Remembering the Serenity Prayer and the necessity of accepting number 1 and dealing with number 2, I'll be taking advantage of some things that I had recently forgotten. Namely, the hand sanitizer on the end of my desk and the Airborne that I've neglected. After all, Airborne was formulated by a teacher tired of catching students' colds.

By the way, has anyone else ever doubted the veracity of that Airborne claim? How would a 2nd grade teacher know how to 'formulate' a homeopathic cold treatment? I guess she has an honest face. Anyway, I digress.

In a twist of fate, I'm also grading my students' final drafts of their final papers this weekend. So, while I'm sneezing and sniffling, I'll also be wielding the pen of eternal frustration and doom. Or, at least that's how my students see it these days.

Ah, well. Best of luck to them. I need to get some more orange juice and get down to business.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hallmark Approximation

Last night I walked into my building to make one final check of the office before I left for home. I noticed our janitor, Jay, and his cart of cleaning supplies as soon as I walked through the double doors. Since he didn't notice me, I walked behind him towards my hall and said hello.

"Hi, Jay, how are you?"

Jay jumped and turned around with an "Oh!"

"Did I scare you?" I said, smiling.

"No. It's just that nobody calls me 'Jay' around here."

"Oh." Now it was my turn to be scared. Have I been wrongfully chatting with the janitor formerly known as Jay? Is his name something like Harold or Brian? It's a good thing I speak before I think. "What do they call you?" Still smiling.

Paper towel rolls in hand -- "They usually don't call me anything."


We exchanged some quick how-are-you?s and how-have-you-been?s as I unlocked my office door and he continued down the hall.

And I decided that Jay needs a Christmas present. With his name on it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sealed for Freshness

Unsurprisingly, winter has come to Maine. And in a big way, actually. It's not terribly cold here yet, but the sun is gone by 4pm. Apparently this lack of sun is quite affecting.

In an effort to control my own mood more than the weather does this winter, I've been trying to take advantage of the daylight hours and stay relatively active. The active bit manifests itself in the seemingly continual racquetball games I've been playing of late.

I really do enjoy playing, and I'm actually starting to act more like an opponent than a tag-along little sister that nobody wants around. So, I consider this a success. Now that I've demonstrated that the racquetball thing is not a passing fad in my life, I bought my very own racquet. It's glorious and sparkly and pinkish. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, the racquet is exciting and will no doubt dramatically change my game, but the balls are what I want to dwell on for a minute.

When my roommate relented and agreed to play a game this weekend, I excitedly pulled out my brand new tube of balls to find this:

The racquetball balls were sealed for freshness. Really? They're rubber balls. Fresh? I don't get it.

So, of course this made me all contemplative. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about this seal for days.

And just tonight it dawned on me. I've been bemoaning my seemingly isolated place in Orono, Maine probably since I arrived here last August. I've complained about the lack of people "like me" and the sad choice on the local radio stations. I alternately whined about and enjoyed the snowy walk to and from campus in the months between November and April. I've counted the days until I board planes out of the state. And I've taken day trips just to get out of Orono.

But what if I'm just currently sealed for freshness?

This could perhaps revolutionize the rest of my time in Maine. There are many reasons why I could stand to learn a little bit about my self at this point in my life. However...there are three balls in my tube. So, I think, if I can stretch this analogy just a bit further, that means that I don't have to be alone in my fresh world. This is also good news.

And finally, when I did open that tube of balls and pull out the one on top, by God, that rubber ball smell was gloriously clear and sharp. Reminded me off a new doll. Suddenly the seal made a lot of sense.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gakked from Rishyish

This week has been filled with the ups and the downs for me. I gave a presentation that was hectic in the makings and a relief in the presenting/finishings. Stuculty went off without a hitch and was extremely well-received, but again, somewhat nerve-wracking and hellish in the organization. My students seem to be on the up and up, so that is win. And I got back a paper that I thought was rubbish but my professor deemed "promising." Ironically, I wrote that exact word on one of my own students' papers this week. Finally, in a rather surprising turn of events, I won a racquetball game of cutthroat on Thursday against E and K. Major win there. *pumps fist*

In addition, there are various other things swirling around me this week that don't need mentioning on the interweb, but let's just say that I am feeling... njkwychqogsaj.

In case you haven't noticed, I've introduced some new terminology into my blogging thanks to my current read: Serafina67 *urgently requires life*.

Susie Day's book is spot on. The book is the collected blog entries (complete with reader comments) of a young adult named Sarah. Sarah is contemplative and angsty and totally not speaking to Patch anymore. Her parents are divorced and their new relationships baffle her. Her friends are super supportive and their comments are riddled with blogspeak and emoticons. The book is, in a word, blogtastic.

So, in honor of serafina67 and the happiness she has brought me every night this week before I nod off, I've gakked a survey that she "gakked from rishyish". Here goes nothing.

Here is the passage from Serafina67 *Urgently Requires Life* (pages 186-187 if you are keeping track)

"List 6 things you would like to say to 6 different people, online or in RL. Be as honest and direct as you like. (Do not say who they are!)
1. I wish I was you.
2. F*CK OFF.
3. I love you loads and loads and I wish you liked yourself more. But sometimes I think you put it on a bit so people will tell you how much they care.
4. I miss you.
5. I don't miss you.
6. Sometimes I think we're really close, but I don't think I could ever say that to your face, which probably means we aren't."

Okay, here ends the serafina67 bit and begins my bit? That sounds blergh but I'm not going to take the time to make it better.

*debates over what to include in list*

*debates level of ambiguity desired*

*decides to start listing and get over planning*

1. I don't want to know.
2. You are the bright spot in my week.
3. I'm glad we didn't grow apart completely.
4. Sorry, but I can't make Girl's Night.
5. You are probably my best friend in Maine.
6. According to ET!, Hilary Clinton and I share a dress size.

So, how is that for some honesty? That list was really hard to write. It must just be the nature of these survey/list/blog things, but I got a little bit angsty just doing that. *headdesk*

Dangerous... I'll have to remember not to gak very often.

I do, however, want to incorporate more of these asterisk-bookended actions into my blogging. Apparently, I've been blogging all wrong. *hugs on serafina67*

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barack Obama, the most musical president in years

So, as I was disappointedly scanning through the miserable options on the Bangor radio today, I happened upon an amazingly fun reggae diddy about our 44th president. I thought, now isn't this great that we have songs written about the man who is going to be our next president? He hasn't taken the office yet, sure, but we like him. We like him enough to write songs about him. And I know there are songs because we have all seen or at least heard of the's Yes We Can and the Obama Girl's I Got a Crush on Obama. However...I knew there had to be more out there. When I got home for the night I did some quick YouTube research and I found out that there is most certainly something going on here.

So, here are a few videos that I feel to be the best of the best. In no particular order...

Susan Werner.

I love her for many reasons. First of all, she played with Girlyman at the Halloween concert in Portland. Since then I've been listening to her newest CD, The Gospel Truth, well...religiously. It's wonderfully song-writery and...gospel. Now, ordinarily gospel music would make me cringe in a way that not much else can, but she is so blissfully skeptical that the lyrics actually feel like something I would say. Or at least sing. Give it a listen. Anyway...the point...the Obama song.

Now for something really different, here is the reggae tune I stumbled upon in the car today. The singer is Cocoa Tea. The song is "Barack Obama." Surprise.

In searching out this song I found that there many many reggae songs out there about Obama, but I decided to be loyal to Cocoa Tea. I mean, he made it to Bangor radio, so he must be pretty hot.

And, finally, this one is my favorite. This song is "Change" by Manze Dayila & the Nago Nation. I give them major bonus points for naming the song something other than "Barack Obama." I also give them extra major bonus points for the amazing romper Manze is wearing. Can we still call it a romper? I basically just love the colors and the fit and the giant pant legs. I really just like this song and video quite a lot. Just wait for the "OH OH OH"s and I think you'll like it too.

I also really love the cut-off t-shirt that says "Obama or else" on it. Brilliant.

Anyway, I guess I don't yet have a conclusion about the number of jubilant praise songs out there for Obama, but I definitely think it is worth noting.

My roommate says that Barack Obama's name has a musicality to it that most other names do not. Perhaps that could be it. Or maybe it's the one-of-us feeling that he worked so hard to cultivate. Or maybe it's just because he's the antithesis to what we have now. Who knows.

What I do know is that Barack Obama needs a mixed CD. Right now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

1000 Pin-Ups

I'm not entirely sure why I have been feeling especially self-reflective the past couple of weeks. Let's blame it on Obama and Rachel Maddow.

Anyway, I did my customary browse through Borders tonight and found myself at the Gender Studies/Sexuality shelf. This is usually good and bad for me. I find great books that make me feel good about myself. However, I also usually realize how far I am from where and who I want to be. If I even know where and who I want to be anyway.

So, I read most of Is It a Choice? Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gay and Lesbian People. I'm sure you can imagine how that went.

After displaying the proper amount of excitement over the chrysillis (spelling?) of the Monarch butterfly to the most adorable, tiny, maybe four-year old boy who sat beside me, I polished off Is It a Choice? and graded two or three student revisions.

From my seat I spotted my next read on the Self Help shelf. How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You by Leil Lowndes. I learned many interesting tactics that I will probably never implement successfully. Let's just say that it has a lot to do with the eyes and how you use them.

I walked out of Borders with no conclusions, but a shiny new picture book.

After all, when life is scary and mercurial, the best thing to do is think about a tattoo.

The Art of Slacking

No one needs to be taught how to slack. Slacking is easy. Effortless, even. However, making slacking into an art is an entirely different thing.

The most important bit of the art of slacking is the deceit. As I much as I dislike the term, Randy Pausch's 'headfake' makes a lot of sense here. The goal of the artful slacker is to never appear to be slacking. Even more to the point, the artful slacker is never caught slacking.

Last night I drifted off to sleep while awkwardly thinking about an almost lover from my past. Who knows why homegirl came back to me last night, but it was an interesting thought experiment to remember that most uncharacteristic of Mays. Anyway...when I woke up this morning at 8:40am, I laid in my bed - fully awake - for several minutes before I decided to make a move.

Today is that day of the semester when the one class of the day is canceled and there is no reason to go to campus.

Knowing I had a full day to myself, I determined that what I really needed to do was organize my bookshelf. As soon as I found out I passed the Comp Exam earlier this week, I have been dying to incorporate the comp list books into my other books. This seems like the last step in acknowledging that the Comp Exam is completely behind me. So...while still sitting on my bed, I rearranged my bookshelves. First by category, then alphabetically. I now have anthologies and writing about writing across the top. Non-fiction on the two top shelves. Fiction on the next four. I still have a bunch of books that won't fit on my Dollar Tree shelves, but one day I'll have a glorious library. These shelves will do for now.

I allowed myself to work with the bookshelf until 10am. 10am, of course, is when The Martha Stewart Show comes on in Orono, Maine. I scrambled downstairs and readied a bowl of cereal in front of the television set. Now my roommate might be the only one to understand why this upset me, but Martha was touring Mexico on her show today. Ugh. I did not watch. I disappointedly watched Hoda Kotbe and Kathy Lee on the Today Show. It was okay, but not what I wanted.

After the lack of Martha, I read a bit of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. We're going to be discussing the book in my YA lit class next Wednesday, so this reading cannot possibly be condemned as slacking. :) See how this works? Anyway, The Book Thief is a really gorgeous moving book and I'm only 100 pages in. It's a work of historical fiction about a girl in Nazi Germany as told by the Angel of Death. Like I said, gorgeous and moving.

Between chapters, I vacuumed the apartment. It didn't take long and it was oh-so-gratifying. Let's just say that it really needed to be done.

After finishing Part 2 of The Book Thief, I researched cupcakes. I wanted to find the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe for this coming week's National Vanilla Cupcake Day. I haven't decided if I will take the cupcakes to campus on the actual holiday or make the vanilla cupcakes for my YA lit workshop on Wednesday or Stuculty on Thursday. Either way, I've decided to try Amy Sedaris' Vanilla Cupcake recipe. Success.

When I realized that I had been messing around with vanilla cupcakes online for over an hour, I decided I should do something else light that would create the appearance of productivity. Dishes.

Dishes done, I showered. At noon. Ladies and gentlemen, when you can live half of your day before you take a shower, that is a clear sign that you are slacking.

If after slacking all morning and feeling quite relaxed and chill, you can then look forward to the rest of your day without having been caught slacking, then you, my friend, are an artful slacker.

Isn't it nice that I can now shamelessly use the John McCain "my friend" without any fear of having to listen to it for the next four years? :)

In conclusion, I am quite pleased with my slacker performance this morning. My roommate just returned home to evidence of vacuuming and dish washing. I'm clicking away at my laptop, a clear sign that I'm working diligently on something relentlessly academic.

Well...I guess I should actually make something happen with my afternoon. I need to grade about 7 student paper revisions and plan my 101 class for tomorrow. But for now...I'm making grilled cheese.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

I know this doesn't solve everything, but I'm very pleased with the American people tonight.

Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America.

One of the most interesting things I have found during the presidential election is the Facebook conversation surrounding this major event. I've been so disheartened by people my age and younger spouting off about how Obama is a Socialist and a Muslim and a Communist and basically the cause of America's impending downfall. These kids are so taken in by the dominant ideology, in this case their fundamentalist upbringing, that they don't see the need to critically evaluate the information they are given. These kids are praising Rush Limbaugh and his take on the election and the candidates. They cite YouTube videos that have spliced speeches on both sides of the campaign to fabricate messages the candidates would never endorse. And the worst bit of all, they parrot this stuff back without ever considering who they are excluding, damning, disregarding, and hurting.

I described their Facebook conversations to another friend as a parade of ignorance. It might be harsh, but their words are the direct product of a lack of experience of anything outside their privileged, Baptist, heteronormative, middle class lives.

So...I'm blissfully pleased about the outcome of this presidential election. I believe that our country has the potential to move in a new direction, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next four years.

But, I'm still worried about the Facebook kids. I know there will always be Fundamentalists and a new president will not change that. However, I want these young people to understand what is happening in the real world. And, I guess I want this for them because I've been where they are. It is by no means an impossible trip. They can open their minds. I just hope that more of them decide to.

"I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight..." - Barack Obama, November 5th acceptance speech.

I passed!

That's right, kids! I found out yesterday afternoon that I passed the M.A. Comprehensive Exam!

No more forced reading of those 30odd texts. No more stretched connections between Paradise Lost and Frank O'Hara. No more marathon days of testing. No more dread of a retake. No more . . . valid excuse for slacking on my other coursework.


Well, I guess I should be getting down to business anyway. I have two classes of my own to wrap up and about 20 first year writers to pass. I feel like my classes will be okay as long as I actually sit down and work on them. My students . . . well . . . I feel like they are coming around too.

However, as will happen, I've been struck down with a cold. My left eye won't stop watering and my nose is running and stuffed up at the same time. You get the idea. So what does this mean??? You guessed it! Another valid excuse for slacking on coursework. See? There is always a silver lining.

In other - clearly more important - news, go vote!

I know we'll all be glued to our laptops and tvs tonight as the results roll in. With any luck we'll have cause to celebrate by midnight.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Ups and Downs

I've been so very eagerly anticipating the glorious debauchery of Halloween weekend for a few months. I start planning my costume as late as the summer, as early as the spring semester. This particular costume has been in the works for quite some time.

I did my research. I shopped for wigs. I tried on many dresses. This is what I came up with for the perfect Marilyn Monroe costume:

Once I had the costume, I just needed the proper venue in which to show it off. There was, of course, an English grad student-led party going on. However, there was also going to be a Halloween night Girlyman concert in Portland.

Hmm...concert by one of my favorites in an actual city...or a party with my coworkers in Orono - a party that I would have to drive to and from, mind you. I think you'll understand why I chose to go to Portland.

But, true to form, things weren't as exciting as they promised to be. Don't get me wrong, the concert was great. Girlyman has such a cool friendship going on within the band that their performance was really relaxed and fun. They made fun of each other. They improvised songs while the others tuned instruments. They analyzed the word "pimp" and whether one "pimped" or "pimped up". Two of them even wore "ghoulyman" makeup (their cheesy joke, not mine). And...a true miracle, the opener was actually really good. Susan Warner played some of her twangy, song-writery, gospelly folk music before Girlyman came out and she is quite remarkable. I'll have more to say about her once I more carefully listen to her newest cd, The Gospel Truth.

The interesting thing about the Halloween concert is that it was more of the second than the first. There was not a terrible amount of Halloween happening at all. The concert was advertised as a costume event, but I would guess that there were only about a dozen people in costume. And four of those people were me and my friends. So...when Girlyman finished their set and said all their "thank you"s, they pointed right at me and my friends and said, "And thanks for coming in costume, you guys. We really appreciate it."

I guess we should be happy with the recognition, but it just a bit awkward attending a concert as Marilyn Monroe. At first I marveled at my luck, attracting the eye of a couple of gorgeous people...but, alas, I think it was Marilyn that caught their eye. Not me. And they didn't even buy Marilyn a drink!

Anyway, after the concert, my roommate and I had to walk back to the hotel to let our friends into the hotel to get their stuff. At that point we decided to call it a night. Since two of my colleagues were presenting papers at an academic conference being hosted at our Portland hotel, I traipsed down to the third floor for a hot minute. The boys appreciated my costume for two obvious reasons, and I frightened a middle aged man who innocently turned the corner too quickly. All in all, the third floor was... interesting.

And...not that alcohol is all-important, but... I had a beer with dinner. And that's it.

Sober as a priest or someone who is actually sober, I went to bed around 12:30am. Lame.

Also, we didn't take the first picture of ourselves in costume. So, this picture I present you just because it would be rude to give you nothing. However, I took this before the costume and makeup came off, so it's not terribly flattering or well-composed.

But like I said to my roommate earlier today, this was a really great weekend. It was relaxing and fun and we saw a great concert. However, as a Halloween, it kinda sucked.

Oh well, there is always next year. And don't think that I won't trot out the Marilyn costume again next year. It's too good to put away after a sad half-use.