Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sidra Stone and Snapping

I'm getting close to finishing The Shadow King by Sidra Stone, and I'm beginning to realize how much it's getting under my skin, in (I hope) a positive way.
This morning I had to get up early because the pastor of the church I have been attending was coming over to do introductions and discuss membership. I had asked my roommates to pick up their messes before morning arrived, because I don't like the idea of a guest walking into a dirty space. Especially a small dirty space, because that makes the gross ten times more prominent. And gross, by definition to me, includes plates with food stuck on them in the sink, magazines laying around, dog hair forming colonies on the couches and in corners, etc. So when I came down stairs this morning, I was immediately disgruntled when I found the sink full, copies of the Austin Chronicle on an arm of the love seat, the garbage can's contents literally spilling out onto the floor, and a few particles of dust strewn about.

My immediate reaction to such a state is to get resentful and upset - first, I don't like feeling as though keeping the apartment sanitary is my duty simply because I'm the only one who enjoys cleanliness a few degrees higher than everyone else present, and then I especially hate the idea of a guest walking in and judging me/us by a messy, dog-odor infused apartment. This merited me snapping at a roommate, words were exchanged, I got mad and stormed upstairs.

I started thinking about it, and realized that it's not just the guest being here that worried me about the apartment's state, because I always like it clean. And aside from preferring clean by character, I see the state of the apartment as a reflection of my own hygiene and level of responsibility, as though a messy apartment means that I am a lazy, negligent care taker who probably doesn't bathe. When I realized that I should not see the apartment as a reflection of my own ability to be a good, well-kept girl, I relaxed.

Then I heard the sound of running water and glass dishes clanking as someone scrubbed them in the kitchen, and I relaxed even more. An exterior mess is not indicative of an inner mess, nor does it demonstrate my inability to maintain feminine responsibilities, because cleaning is not solely feminine responsibility in a shared household. Perhaps next on my reading list should be a copy of The Second Shift.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guilt Free Eating

Tonight was the kick-off of free pizza week in an attempt to promote after school activities, and it was insane. I came home with a massive sinus pressure headache and found dishes in the sink waiting for the dishwasher to be unloaded. Considering that I've been at work all day and most of them aren't mine, I'm going to defer to my roommates. The pile of laundry on the floor of my bedroom is another story. Regardless, I didn't want to cook, so I took a cue from Jennifer and justified dinner out as my contribution to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Chili's - best idea ever. I even sprung for a margarita.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yoga & Therapy

One of the things I wanted to try doing as a step towards better self-care was to see a therapist. I went this past week and it was the third time I had ever been to one, the first being my freshman year of college, my second at the beginning of my junior year of college, and then this past Wednesday. I have only been once to each session because I have never walked out of a session feeling "better," usually my feelings are more aligned with words like "exposed" and most recently, "lectured."

I have to be admit that part of the problem each time has been that I always answer the question "why are you here" with the stock response, "someone referred me," thus deflecting responsibility for being there and exhibiting a lack of desire to actually be there, even though that's not true. I felt like this especially set the tone at my most recent session, when I still refused to be honest about my desire to be there and only mentioned the recommendation that I attend from a family member.

The first time I went to therapy I sat clammed up, the second time I cried, and this time I promised myself not to do either of those things, but nonetheless found myself rendered incapable to speak freely, by what mental block I don't know - that's why I was there! - and found the hour veering into directions and topics I didn't find to be issues or worthy of talking about for that long. And it was less talking, and more lecturing about what I should and shouldn't be doing. I left feeling as though I were a weak, uncommunicative enabler. Which may be true, but those aspects would be things I would have liked to work on in therapy, not reasons to be dismissed/accept dismissal. For example, I appreciate being told that it is part of the healthy grieving process to still be angry and sad that my mother passed away, but five years after the fact, I'd like a little guidance in letting off the intensity of those emotions. But according to this therapist, I'm normal. I don't think I'll be accepting normalcy then. I'd like a little more relief than the previous five years have afforded my mentality... or I've afforded myself, I'm not sure which.

Either way, despite my love of reading psychology books, I think my taste for visiting psychologists has soured. I have a few ideas of where my money can be better spent.

Tonight I went to my first yoga class in Austin at Dharma Yoga. I always leave yoga feeling like an untwisted knot, so I don't know why I find it so difficult to commit to regular practice. I've practiced on and off since I was an undergraduate at Fayetteville - perhaps some sort of commitment would be a step in the right direction towards my overall health, since commitment would have been one of the "issues" I would have liked to work on with myself.

In addition to that, I'm interested in seeing a homeopathic doctor who combines life coaching with holistic therapy treatments. Stress and anxiety relief would be my priority. Perhaps I'll go and discover that homeopathy should go the way of therapists, but then I'll just get myself a massage. Which I may do first, anyway. My biggest problem there would simply be choosing one.

Old Pecan Street Festival in Austin

Two things that I love a lot: getting coupons in the mail, and writing inside coffee shops pretending I'm doing something really pivotal in the world of literature. Or, at least, potentially so. Did Hemingway and Fitzgerald know they were writing great works of literature when they sat in Paris cafes?

Actually, they probably did. Maybe confidence is the key. But recognizing delusions of grandeur would also be necessary, so I'll be content knowing that this chai tea and blogger are enough to make me happy right now. And thanks to a coupon for a free drink of $5 or less, I'm getting to play out my favorite stereotype by typing away on my lap top at a corner table in The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

I love tea, and the long shelves of brightly packaged teas in cans behind my chair are tempting me to push my personal tea collection to capacity, but I know for fact that the cupboard at home simply can't handle any more, so I'll keep my back turned to the Jezebel collection flanking me.

Today in Austin there were several events going on downtown that we knew would make driving to and parking at church a huge headache, so for the first time I got to try the Capital Metro System. The trip planner on their website would have been excellent, if it had accounted for the detours that eliminated certain downtown stops because of the marathon and festivals.

So, in thinking that the bus would drop us closer to the Omni Hotel than the outer edge of downtown, we waited for the next stop, only to find ourselves circumnavigating the entire city of Austin, from Oltorf to further south to back on downtown's edge again. We initially boarded the bus at 9AM to make the 9:45 young adult Sunday school class, and walked into the church at exactly 10:57. That made the ride to church an HOUR long. It's OK though, beginner's mistake. The ride home took ten minutes, and I have not been detoured from thoughts of purchasing an $18 month long pass. Hopefully there aren't many more marathons planned in the future.

The events downtown proved alluring, despite their initial frustration, though, so after church we got to go walk around the Old Pecan Street Festival. I didn't realize that the streets used to be named after trees, and while I can see the pragmatic draw of renaming them after numbers, names like Pecan, Ash, and Magnolia, are much more romantic than 6th & 7th.

The website touts the festival as the largest arts festival in Central Texas, and I hope to one day retire my poster prints of Monet and Kandinsky and become a patron of living, breathing artists who need to eat. Luckily, the balloon man always seems to be doing good business.

When I get a decent camera, I want to take pictures of all of Austin's storefront signage.

Waiting at the bus stop for the ride home. The theatre man was putting up new letters on the marquee and I really wanted to ask him to let me do one. I refrained. But next time I take the initiative.

Yes, I did walk into traffic for the picture below. I wanted to be in the picture, but my potential photographer was worried about left turning traffic courtesy, or something lame like that.

I like immortalizing what I'm listening to at any given moment, and someone who works in this coffee shop has good taste. Also, shazam is amazing. This video makes me want to go finish my copy of Bitch: The Consumed Issue, right this second.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Self-Service Dog Wash and Other Austin Discoveries

This is my dog, Bella. And despite being pitch black, Bella could never hide, even if she was in a room with no windows and no electricity. Because everywhere that Bella goes, pounds of dog hair follow. How does she have so much hair? I have no idea. Even furminating her once a week and vacuuming every four days does nothing to eliminate the fistfuls of fur that accumulate around the apartment. Today it had come to a point that even petting Bella merited a hand washing immediatley after because she was so sheddy, dandruffy, and greasy. (I've been wiping her down with doggie wet-wipes, but those do little more than dampen and febreeze her temporarily). So today, I put her in the car and went down Guadalupe to try out a self-service dog wash. I used to take her to Pets-Mart, because my last boyfriend, and still very much adored friend, worked there and could get me discounts on her grooming.

The closest dog wash place was Dirty Dog, and I really liked it. For $15 they had a big tub, all the soaps, including ear wash, brushes, blow dryers, aprons, and towels. Bella hated it, but she did enjoy the treat at the end.

I need to come up with some sort of business model like that - make a place where people pay to come and do their own work. Brilliant.

Eirik got home from Alaska today, so he's been sleeping off the long flight all day. I went with Lennon down to the part of Guadalupe near UT known as "the drag" to explore it on foot, since trying to drive down it requires all of one's attention not to be hit by a car or take down a sophomore on their cell phone. I tried to take a picture of the Daniel Johnston graffiti, but my point and shoot camera was a "bucket of fail" in the absence of natural light.

Now it's beer on the patio, chess, and maybe some House dvds. I can't wait till I have the expendable income to explore every inch and crevice of Austin.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Iron & Wine: Flightless Bird

I want to fall asleep listening to this on repeat all night long. Youtube, please make a cycle button, so I can dream about songs like this. I don't think nightmares would be possible then.

Banksy & Hope

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.

- John le Carre

It is part of my Bookpeople visit tradition to stop in the art section and browse the graffiti artist compilation books, and it was on one of these visits that Lennon pointed out the graffiti artist that everyone else in the world is apparently familiar with but me - Banksy. I've never really been interested in graffiti art until my friend from high school, Lee, began doing stencil art pieces that I liked because they looked both beautiful and complicated, which I had never noticed before in my prior dismissals of graffiti art. I wish I could unwire the part of my brain that immediately dismisses everything at first glance, I miss a lot of things because of this.

I've gained a renewed interest in graffiti art since bringing in a program vendor to the after school program I am a co-director of - a vendor called S.O.U.L. Sessions (Strengthen Our Urban Legacy), who, in addition to bringing in break dancers, beat boxers, and free style hip-hop artists (all foreign to me), works with the students on graffiti art. And not tips on tagging, but large, beautiful pieces.

The frustrating fact of my job is that very few of the remaining students at the school (it's AYP 5 - "academically unacceptable"), are not interested in very many things, at least not that I have been able to tell or tap into. Like teaching, my afternoons out of the office and in the club with the kids are very rollercoastery - yesterday was terrible, with disrespect, talk-back, rule disregarding, poor program attendance, etc, while today was much better, with our girls-only group that discusses relationships and abuse having a large turn out of eight, and two boys challenging me to games of pool - which in my job, is a huge deal. Nonetheless, it has been the academic equivalent of Sisyphus to encourage kids to participate in enrichment programming like S.O.U.L. Sessions and the other really amazing (and I mean amazing) vendors we have contracted to come into the school to teach kids (fun things - like film making, slam poetry, Capoeira... etc).

Yesterday a student started snapping and cussing at me for asking to see his attendance wrist band, and it shook me the same way confrontation did in my classroom my first year of teaching. It is very different to interact with students I do not see for an hour every day in a studious environment. I still don't know most of their names, and my authority reaches no further than telling a behavior case that they need to leave and can't come back for X number of days. My co-worker has promised to bring me a short book to read about the psychology of children who grow up in poverty - about the survival mechanisms employed by some kids, a subject utterly foreign to me, and thus renders me unsure of how to react or handle some situations. I'm not new to urban schools, but this stint is completely different from anything I've tried before, and it's certainly trying my resolve some days.

After yesterday's encounter with the one belligerent boy and the other issues we had, it made me very happy to see this tattoo posted on Contrariwise with the tagline "there is always hope."

This, of course, led me on a scavenger hunt across the internet looking at Banksy pieces and stories, realizing that I've been, perhaps, the only person out of the loop until now, (which is not that unusual). I find it odd that people "buy" his pieces, since he's quoted as saying: “Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you. It’s yours to take, rearrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

This quote resonated in my head and I thought of all of the images and information that I'm confronted with everyday, whether or not it is by choice - even the check-out belt at the grocery store register has advertisements printed on it that scroll as I set my groceries on top of them. It's tiresome to recollect all of the colors and text that are thrown at my eyes all day. It's even more tiresome to try and get some students to realize this - I taught propaganda when we read Night in my sophomore English classes, and it always reminded me of the anonymous quote: the fish is the last one to see the water. This in turn reminds me of that meditation practice I've been putting off...

When I got home I attempted to insist on vacuuming, but was informed I needed to stop moving and lay down to rest for thirty minutes. Thirty turned into two and a half, and it's time I should return, since I only got up to eat a dinner of cheerios, about an hour ago.

The Jealous Girlfriends: Secret Identity. This seems appropriate after writing a few lines about Bansky. Plus, I just love them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DIY in the kitchen: vegan muffins

There is an incredibly liberating feeling that comes from paying off all of one's bills for the month. Being finished paying out other people until thirty days from now allows me a necessary breath from the deep, cob-webby part of my lungs where the air needs stirring... and its effects last, till next month.

I'm trying very hard to stick to my "swallow the frog" mantra and get all of the things I don't want to do started and finished within an hour of walking through the front door. Tonight, that involved sorting and starting the laundry, paying bills, making a budget for next month, emptying the dishwasher, and tidying up since I'm the picky one in the house. It makes the remainder of the evening relatively guilt free compared to how I would feel trying to read and cook as a form of procrastinating.

Tonight I went to Spider House with my step-sister who is in town from College Station for a meeting, so I didn't get home till late.

I love Spider House. The combination of fairy lights + rusted wrought iron head boards as a fence + cobblestone terrace + retro patio furniture is a veritable fantasy outdoor lounge. It's equally enjoyable on a Sunday afternoon with a lap top and tea, as it is at night with friends, dogs on leashes, and an adult beverage. If I had the money to spend drinking mochas and beer out as opposed to at my kitchen table, I'd spend a lot of it there. I'd never even heard of it till my coworker and I needed a place with wireless internet to start our program planning before we had access to our office, and she found it on a google search. I'm glad she did. Last week I took my step-sister to Flightpath, so perhaps it will be my goal to give her the full tour of Austin's coffee houses throughout the course of her Tuesday meetings.

Tonight I was a well-behaved spender, and refrained from spending money on more than a latte, knowing I had food at home I could make. When I was a sophomore in college, I started making everything myself from scratch, and this included jam, bagels, almond butter, tomato sauce, etc etc. I would like to get back into the habit, if not for the cost and nutritional benefit, but because making food for myself (and my co-inhabitants) is a meditative experience. I know my Asian Studies teacher told me that washing dishes should be meditative as well, but I haven't progressed that far.

For breakfast this morning, I pulled out another old recipe favorite to bake, and it was much easier and quicker to make than I remember. It goes like this:

Morning Glory Muffins

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup wheat germ or flax seed (optional)
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups shredded carrots
1 apple, shredded
4 oz crushed pineapple
3/4 cup soft tofu
1 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 or 2 bananas (optional)

1) preheat oven to 350.

2) sift together: sugars, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt into a large bowl

3) add coconut, raisins

4) in a food processor, blend together: carrots, apple, pineapple, tofu, applesauce, vanilla, banana

5) add to mix and stir well

6) spoon into greased muffin tin (should make about 12 muffins)

7) bake 30-35 minutes

I had one with green tea, butter, and a bowl of vanilla yogurt over berries with honey while reading blog posts and the New York Times online. Did I mention that I *love* not having to work until noon?

Spider House was playing this album by Band of Horses, and this is by far my favorite song off of the album. Although, I love every song I've ever heard by them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Goodbyes and Peanut Sauce

After last night's shenanigans, or "symposium," using our new term from the Blanton museum's Grecian urn collection, I had to take a nap immediately after work, which usually leaves me in a groggy haze without the motivation to do anything afterwards. But today, resolve in tow, I got up and proceeded to cook dinner and drink an espresso mocha till I woke up. And it's a good thing I did, because my house guests/room mate came home while I was in the kitchen, but only to say goodbye because they are driving home to Florida tonight and that makes me sad :(

For dinner I made a "Thai" peanut sauce and mixed it with rice noodles. I found the recipe several years ago and it's been a favorite ever since. It's really simple, and looks like this:

Thai peanut sauce + noodles

1 box rice noodles
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tsp brown sugar
1/4 c rice vinegar
2 tsp chili powder or paste
4 tbs chopped chives
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce (or to taste)
1 cup coconut milk
Vegetables - I like the pre-mixed cans of Asian vegetables and broccoli
Cubed tofu (if you want it)

1) in a large sauce pan, whisk together all but the coconut milk over medium heat

2) adjust seasonings to taste

3) stir in coconut milk

4) stir in vegetables (steam the broccoli first if you use it)

5) mix over rice noodles in a large bowl - and it's finished.

Easy! My dinner companion disapproved of the tofu, but as the evening's cook and resident vegetarian... I win.

While finishing up, my poetry boys came home to pack up their things and say goodbye. They brought such good energy into the house and I'm going to miss them. It's one of my life's goals to be the type of person that brings good energy into a room, and not because of a desire to have more people like me, but simply because people who can do that bring joy with them, and that's an unmatchable gift. I can be quite the storm cloud sometimes, and I hope that as I work to bring more peace and a sense of settlement into my life, that the chaos I often feel around and in myself will dissipate.

Quite possible the funniest, and perhaps scariest, picture I've ever seen. This is Lennon, Matt, Eirik, and Adam, or, respectively: Lennon, Cuban, Big Poppa E, and Henzbo.

My turn with the boys. At least I get to keep the one in the middle.

Haiku throw down at Kick Butt Coffee's open mic yesterday night.

I love to write, and I don't know why I'm so absurdly afraid to share anything that I have to say. It's odd not being counted as one of the writers when I write reams of words that simply never make it outside of sealed notebooks. Even maintaining this blog is difficult for me and takes a twist of the arm, since there's a part of myself that always says, "no one wants to read what you have to say, you don't have anything to say anyway." So I try to focus on the counter-voice in my head that reminds me, much more gently, that I'm doing this for myself, because I enjoy chronicalling the day, and because it's good practice at putting something I create into a potentially public sphere. This is an exercise in overcoming my inner defeatist. With each post, I'm the champion of the bout. Another victory - helps to make quite a good night.

Between Madness and Sanity

Today was free museum day in Austin, so I got to go and explore the Blanton Museum of Art for the easy price of a $3.00 parking pass. The featured artist is Francisco Matto, an exhibit tagged "The Modern and the Mythic." Being an avid fan of symbolism, I enjoyed his paintings and totem-pole type sculptures that incorporated a variety of symbols from all cultures across the hemispheres - including nautilus shells, Jesus fish, male and female symbols, etc. There were also very fauvist looking pieces with large areas of solid color and thick brush strokes that the placards described as the artists attempts to find the mystery in everyday objects - objects that seemed to include disjointed teacups, bulbous vases, and close-ups of cookie jars. Perhaps viewing them stirred the mysteries of my subconscious mind. I don't know yet.

It was interesting to then come home and find a large piece in the New York Times about Carl Jung's unpublished work, The Red Book. I've had Man and His Symbols close at hand since I found a hardcover full color copy at the Dickson Street Bookstore my senior year of high school while taking AP Psychology. On a side note - I loved that store and one of my favorite memories involves myself and one of my favorite friends - Mr. Moon - sitting in the cramped aisle of the poetry section, the floor to ceiling shelves creating a secret haven (or at least it felt that way) for us, reading Rilke from collections with yellow, worn pages while it rained and rained and rained outside. I have a handful of similar recollections, and they are sacred to me, as trite as they may seem. Days like that are, in my memory, strung together to create consecutive hours of book reading, eating ice cream in the gazebo of the mossed over Confederate cemetery, to marathon viewings of Ingbar Bergman films because Michael had a book that said every film buff should know his stuff, to waking up early in the morning to go sit on the patio at the Arsega's Block Street bakery drinking coffee and eating cinnamon rolls as big as my face.

the only scanned picture I have - I think I've posted it before, but oh well.

Off my tangent now - I can't wait to read The Red Book. Especially since I've begun reading Sidra Stone and started to try and process the influences I have collected the past 25 years that exert sway over my actions and decisions. I want to make sure that the decisions I make and the feelings I feel are my own, and often I have this uncomfortable feeling that what I feel has been given to me, and I am only acting out of a sense of duty or obligation. I plan on writing more about this when I finish a few more books I have on my list.

The universe just seemed to line up for me today in regards to sending Matto and Jung in my direction on the same afternoon. Sometimes I feel like a soda can shaken up. Not a graceful image, but fitting. I don't want to be afraid of explosions.

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."
Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Change my mind, help me to try, I'm afraid I'm not satisfied. In this state I shall not remain - I don't want to go, but if I die young, fill my empty room with the sun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Focusing on the Positives

Things I'm trying to change and implement since moving to Austin:

1) Cook myself dinner, regularly, and with vegetables. Baking my own bread is also categorizable here.

2) Stop buying things. Aside from not having any room for new things, it's a compulsive habit that is best broken.

3) Stay at home more. Not only is going out to eat or to drink every night or close to it a money drain, it also eliminates any available time that could have been spent reading, writing, cooking, sitting still, etc.

4) Read everyday, and not just in marathon bursts every two months. And try throwing the Bible in occasionally, it's been a while since I cracked it.

5) Pay off all car debt, etc, within three years. I would like my future children to have college funds.

6) Write. Regularly. Religiously. Fervently. Whether it's journaling, blogging, poems, or the novel I've had circulating in my head since I was five. Get it out.

7) Don't listen to all the reasons why I can't do something. And on that note, realize embarrassment has no relation to the outside world, so just get over the fear of it.

8) See a therapist. Finally. It's been five years and I think maybe it's time.

9) Yoga. Running. Pole dancing. "I was the only one not there for professional development, but I loved it" -- my favorite administrator EVER, on her aerobic pole dancing classes.

10) My acrylic paints have probably started to dry up from lack of use. Why? What's kept me so busy for so long? It's time to fix this.

I'll have to refer to this list when I start to slip up through means of over-sleeping and stalling. Perhaps that meditation practice I keep thinking of doing if I could only find the right time (ha) would help jump start my motivation to do things I actually enjoy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

(Almost) Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Today is my after-school program coordinator cohorts 25th birthday. She is a fish eating "vegetarian" like myself, which I'm finding is not so difficult to locate in Austin, TX. This has spared me many an odd stare since moving here when I try to explain my eating habits.

I love to bake, but I had let my hobby slide in recent years in favor of sleeping in and going out, a habit I'm trying to shake both for the sake of my well being and my wallet. So, I decided I was going to see what the vegan cupcake hype is all about and try my hand at it.

I found a recipe online and modified it just slightly, so this is the one I followed:


1 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


powdered sugar
coco powder
all purpose flour
orange juice
butter (this is where the almost vegan part kicks in)


1) Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2) Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

3) Add the sugar, applesauce, vanilla extract, and almond extract, to the almond milk mixture and whisk until foamy.

4) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and whisk until no large lumps remain.

5) Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Ready to go in the oven!

6) While baking, make the icing! I didn't measure any of the ingredients, I just poured them in little by little until I got the taste and consistency I wanted. I only added butter after I wanted the icing to be a little thicker and creamier. Next time I may try putting the ingredients in a blender with some soft tofu and seeing if that works, so that I'm 100% vegan.

Yes, it was 2AM when I made these, and I am drinking red wine, and wearing a "so-hip-it-hurts" Anthropologie apron with owls on it. Sometimes I disgust myself... but then again I love what I love :)

The final verdict on the cupcakes was unanimously positive, since I let all FOUR of the boys who are currently sleeping in the apartment try one. Our apartment has become the poets den with my nerd boy, Eirik, Matt, and Adam all living here till at least Monday. Luckily I have Bella to keep the estrogen levels in check.

She's in trouble because she just ate a plate of cake off the counter that had been salvaged from an after school program's party. She knows she can get away with whatever she wants.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bringing Some Happy Into The Week

I like to think I always take good advice...

Biking to the grocery store and back makes me feel as though I deserve a bottle of wine. I enjoy my sense of entitlement when it involves fermented fruits.

Why is getting started on a writing project so hard...

Maybe I'll take a cue from Zach Braff and just make the soundtrack first. Actually, that's not a bad idea.

Don't Worry We'll All Float On

I strongly believe in life inspiring art inspiring art inspiring life.

I've been seeing red: in my coffee mugs and movie screens and I think it means to be bold.

I believe I am ready to map my territories on paper. Plus, I just like the word "cartographer" the same way I like "bumblebee," lascivious," and "cryptic." Welcome to the word count - computer, it's probably to time to stop worrying to the point of paralysis.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just Curious...

If anyone else enjoys reality/fiction plot parallels as much as I do:

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle alongside...

the Amanda Knox murder trial.

I keep reading about this trial obsessively because there's a large part of me that refuses to believe a twenty-something, pretty, normal by all standard accounts girl could be capable of something so heinous. If she is... (although I don't think she is), am I?

Like a true Aquarius...

"Read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other" -- Karl Barth

The Sunday School class I attended yesterday is a new and refreshing concept: rather than a regular read a couple verses then talk about it Bible study, the moderator brought in the New York Times and let everyone select a story to read out loud, (or part of it, as it was over two full print pages long), and then discuss it both with a secular and theological perspective. While I'm too shy to interject among people I don't know, it was still interesting to be in the room listening.

The article selected was Clean Water Laws are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering, an expose feature on environmental crimes being committed against our clean water supply, and the people who directly suffer for it, as well as highlighting the inevitable consequences for all the rest of us. Several of the statements were frightening, especially such sobering statements as "In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses."

The human interest element of the story revolved around a family suffering rashes, burns, tooth decay, and other grievances caused by a nearby coal company's waste saturating the ground. The stump question of the round table discussion was the obvious - how could any person or persons operating within the entity of a corporation knowingly allow such harmful and unethical practices to occur? I never took a business ethics class, but apparently there's an alternate ethics system that encourages umbrella thievery on a rainy morning before an important meeting in order to insure that one does no damage to the potential for a successful transaction. Can pardons for such small transgressions grow to allow justifying the damage of entire communities? Or are people so capable of compartmentalizing, that mass ecological destruction can simply be left on one's desk to return to tomorrow morning? I usually just leave my calendar and a few broken pencils, but that's me.

I suppose the compartmentalization question is easily answered by taking a look at common contributing products to water problems around the world, something I never knew till pointed out by a seminary student present in class. My conscious is clear because I spurn soda, but apparently Coca-Cola is not a very welcome presence in India, taking water for drinking and farming from the ground in gluttonous amounts in the name of industry. I'll stick to milk, thanks. Guess that means no more cuba libres, though.

Of course the bottom line question is always - what can we do, and the answer, (especially if you're raised Protestant... ), seems to be to feel guilty, about everything. I think this is a by-product of promoting social "awareness." I know awareness of issues is important, but it seems pointless in the face of actual action. I know I'm not going to stop the global water crisis. My showers are way too long. So I choose to rephrase the question as: what can I do right here right now. Actually, I still come up short in regards to an answer. My initial response was to go buy a Brita water filter for the tap, but after it exploded off the spout several times when the water pressure was increased, I gave up on that. Now to use more gas to get back to Target for a refund. Luckily though for me, (for now), Austin's water quality is not-bad. Which isn't good, but it won't give me rashes or deform my future fetus, (I'm sure I'll take care of that some other way).

I still don't know what I can do to be a better eco-citizen in my own neighborhood, but for the moment I will sit smug in my vegetarian, cola free diet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not-So-Sloppy Joe + Townes Van Zandt

I have this bad habit of waiting to cook dinner until 10:30 at night, and then I don't want to do anything that won't satiate my hunger a millisecond longer than instantaneously. I'm also really bad about stock-piling "back-up" food that typically never gets used since I don't want to deplete my supply, (it makes no sense, I know). Tonight, after a long (and wonderful) day spent at Central United Presbyterian Church, eating free sandwiches at Subway (yay coupons!), watching an Austin Rugby bout and learning all about scrum helmets and their appearance in the movie Garden State, reading on the couch, and then reading Bitch in the Book People cafe, it is needless to say that I did not feel like chopping up vegetables for the recipe originally on the evening's agenda.

Normally, when I make sloppy joes I use a can of Manwich and a bag of frozen faux "hamburger" meat, which can get pricey. Tonight I dipped into my "back-up" supply of boxed foods and tried a sloppy-joe-in-a-box-concoction that couldn't have cost more than $4 when I bought it a year ago. All of the protein comes in the mix, and the only real extra ingredient needed was a 25 cent can of tomato paste. Mixing + microwaving took all of 10 minutes. And being the avocado affectionado that I am, no sloppy joe is complete without a few slices on top, with some cantaloupe (musk melon?) on the side. Dear Fantastic World Foods, I will no longer disregard your presence on my shelf of non-perishable items, and it is regretable that I did so for an entire year. Even the meat lovers in the apartment were happy and full.


Dessert for me is an iron supplement. Capping off my round of antibiotics-on-steroids, (if Anthrax had been a threat before it wouldn't be now), I've developed itchy hands and feet, with no visible marks or rash. Several web sites... (yes, I know, internet diagnoses are bad news), said this could be attributable to a weakened immune system, which could also be connected to anemia, a condition I've been advised to prevent before it becomes a problem. (I'll still take anemia over animal fats saturating my bones and muscles. Gross). I'm hoping the extra iron will give me the energy boost I need to get up early and run, eat breakfast, and not sleep till noon in general. Perhaps not blogging at midnight would be helpful with that, too. But that's not something I'm willing to compromise.

And just in case the lonely internet explorer browser was curious as to what I'm hearing in the background, wonder no further, (It's my favorite of the Townes songs that have been on repeat in my apartment the past week):

The Unlikely Disciple

When I find a book I really like, it doesn't take more than a maximum of five days to read it. If I'm struggling to enjoy a book then I usually don't get more than a quarter through, over the course of several months, before I abandon it forever. The Unlikely Disciple took me about a week to finish. I picked it up at Barnes & Noble after being intrigued by its premise as an undercover outsider's view of an evangelical university. Specifically, Jerry Falwell's evangelical university.

I fall into the spectrum, regretably, of people who are equally prejudiced against fundamentalists as some fundamentalists are against "liberals." I once read an article that said even the word "liberal" sounded like the biological name for a squirmy worm. Clearly there is animosity on both sides... anyway.

The author's task of humanizing a group of people that are often estranged socially as well as religiously and politically seemed like a good read. Having been a teacher in a small, white-flight bedroom community where I got asked at least once a week if and where I went to church, (I didn't), and working with students who wanted to insist that reading the bible, again, should count as outside reading (it did, but only for first-timers), as well as having factions of my family divided by the conservative/liberal split, I've had to do a lot of tongue biting and jaw clenching. The problem with myself, and a lot of people I'm sure, is that I/we tend to be drawn to reading and consuming material that only expounds upon things already believed. This must be old news to everyone else, as no one should be shocked by the fact that I'd be just as hard pressed to get some of my cousins to read Harry Potter as they would be to get me to crack open Left Behind, (although I hear there's a movie version coming out, which my curiosity may compel me to watch). Point being, reading this book was like baby stepping my way into getting the other side's perspective while still having it gently fed to me by someone of similar persuasion. And it was funny. Really funny. What could be banal about naked skateboarding? Nothing.

The author, Kevin Roose, spoke extensively about his concerns towards the possibility of conversion after being immersed in conservative, evangelical culture. Spoiler alert - he didn't convert, but he did expound upon his spiritual growth through incorporating prayer and fellowship into his life. This is one of the aspects of Judaism that drew me in so deeply that I even got up early on Saturdays to attend Torah study for a while... there IS something spiritually satisfying about making a place for God, (or what/whom ever) in your life daily. I have sort of let this knowledge slide over the past couple of years, and it's something I would like to rectify. Very few days go by that I don't remember Dr. Neralich hammering into his classes about the importance of meditation, and practice, but I never actually do it. Tomorrow, God and alarm-clock willing, I plan to try attending an Austin church, to try and bring back some of my wayward focus in life. Maybe the book is responsible for this, maybe the universe is, or maybe I've just exhausted my spiritual supply stores and feel compelled to replenish. Either way, great book. I'm glad it was serendipitously found while going to purchase something else... but then, (can't resist), isn't that a great metaphor for most things in life? (sorry)

I'd also like to note, just for posterity, how jealous I am that this guy researched and wrote a book at nineteen years old. At that age, I was still scribbling Bright Eyes lyrics into my journals every night. I have author envy, and it's dangerous. Although watching Texas Roller Derby tonight was a suitcase full of inspiration as far as character development is concerned... just a mental note.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lake Front Property

My apartment has become lake front. It has also started sinking, considering that the back doors have three leaks forming nice puddles on the floor, and no answer on the "emergency" maintenance line provided by my property managers. I love rain, but not in the house. Perhaps Austin should invest in better drainage systems for it's fluke (that I've seen) mini-monsoons. Or I could lay back on the couch and pretend that the incessant drip-drop sound on the hardwood floor is a soothing noise machine attempting to mimic rain-on-the-roof melodies, which one does not get on a ground floor dwelling. I do have a new book to read...

Friday, September 11, 2009


I love baking. And sometimes cooking, too. But mostly just the eating after cooking. In the months before moving I had fallen into the bad habit of eating most of my meals from restaurants and cardboard boxes. This stemmed from a combination of lethargy and... having my priorities misplaced - as in I'd rather go out constantly than spend any time at home actually making something. This sorely needed reversing.

Last night I continued to correct this problem by cooking at home - grilled salmon (brought from my dad's house over Memorial Day) on top of Caesar salad, and spaghetti noodles with low-fat "alfredo" sauce made from cream of mushroom soup, flour, milk and a little salt. I've already got all the ingredients I need for two more meals and a batch of vegan muffins I used to make in my everything-from-scratch (bagels, tomato sauce, peanut butter...) days. Must keep up the momentum!

Behind my mock-Martha food and Fiesta plates, my new penchant for seasonal beer is prominent, as well as my grandmother's well worn Better Homes cookbook with a broken spine, and the Chicago cow I bought my mother on a class field trip in middle school. My paternal grandmother was an antique collector and her house was an antique store called The Hitching Post. I've certainly taken after her.

It's also very strange that today is 9/11... when everything happened I was going from first period to second period my senior year of high school. I was wearing a long grey skirt and a black sleeveless shirt with a sparkly Air Force logo on it in homage to my admissions packet for the Air Force Academy. I watched most of the footage on TV in my chemistry class. The next year I was in DC for college (turned down the Academy after a wait-listed admittance), and the Pentagon was still under repairs. Strange strange strange.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Officially a Resident

The past month has been spent moving into my new apartment, unpacking, getting used to a room mate's cats, and figuring how to actually do my new job - which entails co-building and running an after school program funded by very picky grant money. I've also been tied up in attending weddings in Houston, getting outrageous parking tickets in Houston (is there anything GOOD about that city...? I've turned quite cynical), eating avocados fried in cornflakes and stuffed into a cone, learning to play chess on the patio, and dealing with the same kitties thinking that my bed is their bed, (I've actually started to like them... ).

As proof of my efforts, I offer photographic evidence:

The living room from the doorway. Still more books than I know what to do with.

The only desk space I get now is the kitchen table... so any body leaving plates or food in my work space will get a stern talking to.

Itty-bitty galley kitchen, with Turkish clock and Panamanian tray - a few of the findings common to an army brat upbringing. Plus a stool for short people to reach dishes in/on the pressed-for-space cabinets.

Thelonious drinking from Bella's water bowl. He's get her in check. His sister Aretha was probably lounging on my bed at this moment. I haven't seen her leave it in days.

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