A Very Purim Bakefest

As I understand it, the holiday of Purim celebrates the Jews’ narrow avoidance of extermination at the hands of an evil man named Hamen. How the holiday came to involve also eating Hamen’s hat, I’m not sure, but it’s delicious and I’ll take it. I’ll also take any excuse to bake delicious pastries:

A Very Purim Bakefest

After a brunch of savory spinach kugel, fresh grapefruit juice, and a salad, we got to work. Olivia rolled out the dough for the rugelach, a flaky rolled pastry filled with dried fruit, nuts, jam, or other sweets.

Rolling

Susie spread the apricot jam (or apple butter when we ran out) and sprinkled on the raisins, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon sugar. Shannon rolled up the rugelach, tucking in the ends of keep the sweets from escaping:

Rolling

I took up the rolling pin for the hamentaschen, so there are only photos of the final product – so you’ll have to imagine me rolling out the deliciously lemon-scented dough and cutting it into small rounds. Susie painted an X of butter on each, then Shannon added a dollop of prune or apple butter. Olivia pinched up the corners of Hamen’s hats, and into the oven they went:

Hamentaschen

We each went home with a box full of treats and a vague understanding of the story of Purim, based entirely on what we remembered from the Book of Esther and what I could parse together from Wikipedia. Purim starts on the 19th, so we have some time to read up – and to enjoy deliciously buttery, flaky, rich and flavorful treats.

Recipes:
Rugelach from Gourmet
The Perfect Hamentaschen from the New York Times

Being a “Grown Up”

When we were home for the holidays, I had a conversation with my mom about jobs, kids, and home buying – you know, the “adult” stuff you’re supposed to have and do in your 30s. She made a comment that has been nagging at me, especially lately, and I want to try to unpack that while also talking about things we’ve been discussing lately.

Mom and I were talking about our plans for having kids, and I was explaining to her that one of the things I’m constantly turning over in my head is what we’ll give up if we make that decision. Mom said something along the lines of that we’d had time to pursue our interests or our hobbies, but that maybe now it was time to set aside some of the fun things and be grown ups. This wasn’t her exact wording, and it makes her response sound much more judgmental than it was. Regardless, it brings me to what I want to talk about: being grown ups.

We’ve decided to wait another year before buying a house. There are a variety of reasons for this: we’d like to have more money in the bank so that we can put down a substantial down payment and avoid PMI. While I like my new job a lot, we’re still not sold on being in Ann Arbor for the long term, especially not after this interminable winter. Home values aren’t appreciating, which makes buying a house seem like a less than ideal investment. And besides, while we complain about our rental, we’re not on the hook when the water heater breaks or the roof leaks or the driveway needs to be redone.

Similarly, we’re not rushing into having kids. Despite my lifelong ambition to be a mom, the reality is very different than the fantasy. There are certainly many rewards to having children, but right now we’re considering the things we can measure. My career is very important to me, and Shane is really busy with work, mopeds, beer, and whatever hobby will come up next. As a result, our days are very full – and that’s before adding in running, gardening, cooking, travel, or friends – and we appreciate a good night’s sleep. Having a baby would dramatically change all of that. Kids are tremendously expensive in both the short and long term, and that’s if everyone is healthy. Ultimately, the decision to have kids is a huge, lifelong one – there’s no foreclosure proceedings or bankruptcy in this area of your life.

So what’s been bugging me about my mom’s comment is that while I can see that we have selfish reasons for not buying or birthing right now – they are also good reasons. We are making the choice to not have a baby right now – or perhaps ever – because we’ve thought about it and talked about it and come to the conclusion that this is not something we want right now. We aren’t buying a house – even though it’s a buyer’s market – because it is the right decision based on a variety of personal and financial factors. I would argue that making these decisions makes us, in fact, MORE grown up than if we haphazardly embraced her view that these things are what you do when you are married and in your 30s. Which is absolutely not to say that making different decisions than we have is wrong – just that these are our choices based on who and where we are in our lives.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

12 Books #5: Reflections on a Marine Venus

As always, Lawrence Durrell is transfixing.  I actually parts of Reflection on a Marine Venus out loud to myself because it intensified my enjoyment of the prose.  I could tell you what I’ve learned about Rhodes from Durrell’s account – part memoir, part fiction in the sense that all memoir is part fiction – of his time there as a press officer after World War II, but I came away with more impressions of ancient sea battles and wine-drenched afternoons than hard facts.  As such, I’ll let the prose stand for itself:

“You arrive in the centre of the ancient town almost before you know it; it is as sudden as a descent from a balloon.  The whole thing assembles itself before your eyes like a picture thrown upon a cinema-screen.  It lies there in the honey-gold afternoon light listening to the melodious ringing of water in its own cisterns, and the faint whipping of wind in the noble pins which crown the amphitheatre.  The light here has a peculiar density as if the blue of the sea had stained it with some of its own troubled dyes.  The long sloping main-street is littered with chipped inscriptions.  One can make out the names of city fathers long since dead, of priests and suppliants; they rise in a long progress up the chalky pathways of the town to the red earth beyond which the archaeologist has not trespassed, to the rather over-poetic votive column which, one can guess without being told, is pat of the most recent Italian restoration work.  Nevertheless Camerius is beautiful in a way that persuades mere ugliness to conform to its grace of air and situation; even the curator’s Nissen hut, now crammed with verminous filth, smashed bottles, shed equipment, and bandages – even this cannot intrude upon the singing beauty of this ancient town uncovered by the spade of the archaeologist.”

Lent

I’m not Catholic, but I really like the idea of Lent. This is closely related to why the Camino resonates so intensely with me – the idea of sacrifice as meditative practice, a way of becoming more focused on a specific thing, whether it is your faith or your awareness of the world around you. In previous years, I’ve given up shopping for craft supplies, plastic bags, beer, and chocolate. This year, I’ve decided to give up ice cream, something I enjoy immensely and crave basically all the time. On Tuesday, even though it was cold, I grabbed a “plain sundae” on my way home from running errands.

Last Ice Cream for 40 Days

While it certainly was no Jeni’s, it was a delicious treat, and the days will be many and long until I can enjoy it again.

In lieu of giving something up, one year I decided to spend the 40 days of Lent taking better care of myself. I don’t recall that it actually had much measurable effect; however, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do the same during Lent this year. There are a variety of personal care things that I’ve just, well, never been very good at remembering to do. These include, but are not limited to, washing my face and flossing. I tend to remember to take care of myself only when something goes wrong – I break out, I remember to wash my face for a week, my skin clears up, and I forget about it. In the next few weeks, I’m going to try to do better – in hopes of establishing healthy habits.

When did I get so high maintenance?

It’s been two days, and so far I have flossed every night, washed my face every morning (and after work outs!), used moisturizer, and drank more water than usual. Off to a good start.

Posts and Pages in WordPress

I spent a couple of hours yesterday puzzling over a WordPress mystery: how exactly a static page could, without being told to do so, display a series of posts.  I found several ways to make it happen with custom templates, custom functions, and custom fields – but of course, none of these were what was happening on my site.  I was told to “perturb the environment” in an attempt to break the behavior, but with no luck.

That is, until this morning, when the combination of a quick email and a file changed to “THE BLOG 2: Electric Boogaloo” caused me to notice a feature whose existence I had been searching for all afternoon:

Can I tell you how dumb I felt? Pretty dumb. But also pretty smart! as I’d figured out and tested several other ways, one of which being the way we’re going to actually implement this feature.

So, in case you’re interested, this is how you make a static page display posts:

  1. First, create the page you wish to have display your post content.
  2. From the WordPress admin screen, select Pages then Add New. Create and publish your page.
  3. From the WordPress admin screen, click on Settings then Reading.
  4. By default, the Your latest posts will be selected.  This will result in your posts being displayed on your homepage, which is standard blog behavior.
  5. If you would, instead, like your posts to be displayed on a particular page on your site – replacing the content of that page, select A static page, then select the page you’d like to use from the drop-down menu.
  6. Specify the number of posts you would like your page to display, then scroll to the bottom and Save Changes.
  7. Et voila, a page of posts!

Friday this and that

In no particular order, a list of things I am very much looking forward to:

  1. Taco Tuesday, which I have missed for lo these many weeks since the semester started on January 18.  I will eat hella al pastor tacos and all will be right with the world.
  2. Visiting Champaign and seeing GSLIS peeps this weekend, even though I have a full day of teaching on Saturday. Related: the Esquire! Cheap beer and free bowls of peanuts! Drinks at Boltini! Working at Kopi! Sam’s French toast! Beer at the Pig or Mike & Molly’s!  Champaign, my love, I haven’t forgotten you!
  3. Springtime is coming, right?
  4. Two of our best dudebros coming up from DC next weekend for beer and shenanigans!  Hopefully we will NOT watch The Room this time.
  5. Hanging with Baby Sipes at ACRL, then going down to DC for the weekend to see many friendos, eat many things, and run many miles.  OMG I CANNOT WAIT.  Related: everything about the Galaxy Hut! Baked & Wired cupcakes!  Running with Team Astronaut Mike Dexter!
  6. Springtime running.  Late spring running.  Early summer running.  Any running other than heavy winter running.
  7. The arrival of a delightful assortment of energy gels that I ordered from Hammer Nutrition earlier in the week.
  8. Possibly driving to Toronto in April to see Sarah.  Visiting a formerly Canadian friend while she is in Canada just seems appropriate, you know?
  9. Shane’s birthday and our first anniversary!  Can’t believe it’s been almost a year, omg hearts.
  10. Another long weekend with my ladies from grad school.  This year we’re going to Peoria instead of Carbondale, and we’ll also have two babies in tow.  I’m hoping for lots of girl talk and wine coolers and laughter.
  11. The end of the semester will be here before you even know it!  Seriously, we’re half done, and I canNOT believe it.
  12. Ordering stuff for the garden.  Planting stuff for the garden.  The garden.
  13. Using that spa gift certificate that Shane got me for my birthday just as soon as I have a half weekend day free.

Tired Eating

Tired ... But Not Too Tired To Eat Ice Cream
Photo by dmhergert

I started a new job this week. This new job, as it happens, requires a lot of hands on time with WordPress, so if you stop by this site and things look weird, it’s likely because I’m testing something here before putting it on an Important Library Server Or Something.

So yeah, this new job. I’m busy. A lot busier than I’ve been at work – with few small exceptions – since leaving GW two years ago. I have a lot to think about and work on, I attend a fair amount of meetings, and by the time I get home, I am zonked. Like, ready to go to bed at 7:30 zonked. Like, so much for a solid workout routine (missed 2 days each in January and February, then 2 days THIS WEEK SO FAR) and so much for making dinner. I apologize that I haven’t blogged, but honestly, my meals have looked like this:

Monday dinner: crackers, havarti, carrots and ranch dressing, roasted squash, hot chocolate. Most of this was consumed while Shane was working out, as I could NOT wait until 7-8 when he was done.
Tuesday dinner: Shane was at the shop, so I had post-workout carrots, crackers, string cheese, toasted tortilla, steamed carrots (yes, carrots x2) and ranch dressing. BIG bowl of ice cream after teaching.
Wednesday dinner: We used our buy-one-get-one coupons for Chipotle for burrito bowls full of carnitas and other good stuff. I ate half of mine, saved the rest for lunch, and ate a bunch of chips instead.
Thursday dinner: grocery store takeout (chicken tenders, pasta salad, small piece of chicken parmesan), crackers, carrots, pepparkakor.

Here’s hoping that next week brings more energy and less stress, especially since I’ll have my on campus teaching behind me and a full ten days until I have to teach again. Man, I’m tired. And hungry.

Rob Brezny gets me

I started my new job on Monday, and so far I feel really good about things! I already have responsibilities, meetings on the calendar, projects to work on – such a change from my last job, where I spent a year feeling totally stagnant. For maybe the first time since leaving Illinois, I feel like I really want to be here, and that’s a really good thing.

As a result, yesterday’s Free Will Astrology really rang true:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In his parody music video, “Sickest Buddhist,” comedian Arj Barker invokes a hip hop sensibility as he brags about his spiritual prowess. Noting how skilled he is when it comes to mastering his teacher’s instructions, he says, “The instructor just told us to do a 45-minute meditation / but I nailed it in 10.” I expect you will have a similar facility in the coming week, Capricorn: Tasks that might be challenging for others may seem like child’s play to you. I bet you’ll be able to sort quickly through complications that might normally take days to untangle.