Pumpkin Soup Recipe

I discovered pumpkin soup two years ago. It’s fabulous. This is one of several variations I’ve come up with.

1 pie pumpkin (I’ve done this with carving pumpkins; you’ll just need to cook them a little longer)

1 bunch turnips

1 medium onion

4 cloves of garlic

Herbs and spices as desired

Flour

Olive oil

1 box chicken or vegetable stock

 

Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut it into bite sized pieces. Set the seeds aside for delicious roasting. Also cut the turnips into bite sized pieces. If the greens look good go ahead and wash some of them and chop them into pieces. Dice the onion. Put it in a large pot with a good glug of olive oil. Sauté until they start turning transparent. Mince the garlic and add it. Once the garlic and onions are starting to brown add a couple tablespoons of flour. Let it brown for a bit. If you’re using turnip greens add those. Add and herbs you’re using. I used fresh basil, rosemary, and garlic chives and dried  oregano, smoked paprika, and some dried santaka/japones chiles. Add your stock and the pumpkin and turnips. Cover and let simmer till turnips and pumpkin are nice and soft. Enjoy!

What You Didn’t Know Your Outlet Mall was Missing

This year I went Black Friday shopping for the first time in my life. Not in any sort of insane way; roommate and I just went to the sort of nearby outlet mall. Rather than going at midnight we waited until after lunch so the crowds had thinned out a bit. Still there were crowds, which are not my favorite things. But then there were great deals, which are some of my favorite things.

But the best part of the trip was that this outlet mall had something every outlet mall I’ve visited in the past was missing. Something I didn’t even realize they needed, but I now know with absolute certainty every outlet mall should have: a winery.

Yup. I thought the name was a joke or something, but it turns out a local winery has a tasting room right there in the between the Rue 21 and Gap. Tastings are only $2 for five tastes, which isn’t bad for the wineries around here. The wine itself was nothing to write home about, though they had a nice Black Friday deal going, so we wound up leaving with several bottles. It was totally drinkable wine.

But it wasn’t the quality of the wine that was so great. It was that after dodging crowds and standing in line and being bumped into by strollers and darting in and out of the icy wind for hours, we got to stop, and chat, and drink some lovely wine. I suppose it helped that the winery wasn’t crowded. But it was the perfect way to distress before hitting the last couple of stores.

So word to the wise, wineries and outlet mall managers. Wineries. Booze. It will work out well for everyone.

Coffee in the City of the Ladies

Would we drink coffee with Christine de Pizan?

Kristy: Yes. Let’s start with the general life stuff: girl was married at fifteen and a widowed mother of three by twenty-five. I know that wasn’t unusual for a woman of her social class in that day and age, but knowing these facts and knowing what it was like are two different things. I would like to get her perspectives on women’s lives in her day, because based on what I’ve read of her writing, she’d have a lot to say, and it stands a good chance of being insightful. I’ll confess I don’t love her writing–like most allegories it gets a little heavy handed–but I love it for what it does. Over six hundred years ago Christine was writing about the overlooked place of women in history, and issue we have still not come close to solving. So I’d like to buy her a cup of coffee and chat about women in history, literature, and education. I’d be interested to see what she thinks of where we are now, though I’m afraid she’ll just be disappointed we haven’t gone further.

Cammy:  What the heck?  Sure.  I didn’t know squat about her existence until Kristy mentioned her, but she definitely sounds like a ground-breaker.  Single mom is a tough gig.  Single mom in the middle ages is even tougher.  And I do like a good allegory (even the heavy handed ones) so despite the fact that she was a poet, I might be able to handle coffee with the gal.  I’m sure Kristy will be stuck with the lion’s share of the conversation, but with so few notable female figures in history, how can I miss a chance for coffee with one of them?

My New Thanksgiving Tradition

Being a single person on Thanksgiving is a little strange. It’s a holiday that kind of needs to be celebrated in groups. Before you think I’m being poor me, I want to make it clear that I did have a group of people to eat dinner with Thursday. It wasn’t the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had, but it was fine. And there was amazing baked Alaska, so I’m not going to complain.

But I’m a folklorist, so I’m big into traditions. And not having a family around (and, to be honest, my family doesn’t really having any big Thanksgiving traditions) it’s up to me to create my own. With nowhere better to start, I decided to start by watching Thanksgiving episodes of televisions shows. Given the television shows I have, it’s a short list since science fiction shows tend to not have Thanksgiving episodes. Hell, most shows tend not to have Thanksgiving episodes.

There is, of course, the phenomenal West Wing episode “Shibboleth.” This episode features some amazing Thanksgiving funny including CJ Cregg dealing with turkey pardoning and Sam Seaborn developing an action adventure series called Pilgrim Detectives (“By day they churn butter and worship according to their own beliefs, and by night, they solve crimes!”). No really, if you haven’t seen this episode, you need to. Because what I always forget about that episode is that amidst all the funny, it packs a serious emotional punch. It also has Toby Ziegler explaining exactly why preventing organized prayer in school is so important and a heart rending case of refugees seeking asylum. It had me in tears. Twice.

West Wing also gives us “The Indians in the Lobby” from Season 3 (which I really thought was called “The Butterball Hotline” until yesterday). It’s good, but not nearly as good. I remember being really disappointed when it originally aired because the previews looked so much funnier than the actual episode was. If you remove expectations though, it’s a totally fine way to spend 45 minutes or so of your Thanksgiving Day.

My final Thanksgiving episode was from The Class. Do you remember The Class? I’d be impressed if you did. It was a short lived sitcom on CBS around 2005 or 2006. I’m not generally huge into sitcoms, but this one had a charming premise, a fantastic cast, and fun banter. The fact that Two and a Half Men got the ratings to survive that year and this show didn’t, sort of epitomizes everything that’s wrong with America. Anyway, in its lone season the show had an episode titled “The Class Gives Thanks.” It’s a fairly typical episode of the show, with multiple subplots all surrounding the Thanksgiving theme. High school sweethearts Duncan and Nicole share an awkward dinner with her retired football player husband. Kyle brings his partner to his ex-girlfriend’s house for dinner where lots of wackiness surrounds her obviously closeted husband and father. And Richie begs Lena to take him back while her twin sister Kat threatens to spray Pam in his eyes. I’m not doing it justice, but you should totally YouTube it.

All in all I like my new Thanksgiving tradition. It’s certainly better than watching football. What about you, not-so-gentle readers? Any favorite Thanksgiving themed viewing choices?

Sari Shopping

About a month ago a friend of mine pointed out that you can buy used saris online inexpensively. “Who cares?” you might ask, and I sort of did, until she reminded me that a sari is essentially a 5-6 yard piece of uncut fabric. And many of the most common, and lowest priced, saris are pure silk. So when you buy a used sari online for $15.00, you’re actually getting five yards of silk fabric to do with as you please. My friend, who like me is a belly dancer was planning to make some harem pants out of one.

 

Well thanks to her, now I am too. The problem? When she said you can buy used saris on the interwebs, she wasn’t super specific about how many there are out there to buy. There are tons. And because they are, by their very nature, more or less unique, you have to look at every one. Do you know how addictive that is? Saris are often made of really pretty fabric in exactly the kind of colors and patterns I love (colors more than anything). I spent all last night browsing through a collection of saris on etsy and favoriting a bunch of them, only to spend tonight narrowing that list.

 

I fail at Vacation

I’m one of those people who can almost always summon the energy needed to get through the task at hand. I can function on four hours sleep per night for a couple of weeks at a time in order to survive the end of semester crunch. I can muscle through an autoimmune flare up. I can write a ten page paper in three hours. The problem is I tend to collapse afterwards.  Since late elementary school, the result of this ability has been me being sick over every school break. Oh sure, I make it through the semester with nearly perfect attendance, but as soon as there’s no school to miss anyway I’m down for the count. It always seemed unfair; I never got to enjoy my break because I was inevitably sick as a dog.

This didn’t get much better during undergrad. And there was the added entertainment of professors thinking Thanksgiving and Spring Break were justifications to assign extra work.

It continued through my MA program with the added twist that work didn’t necessarily stop over Winter and Summer breaks.

When I started my PhD it got even worse. Now I spend ten hours a week at least over the Summer working in a job that doesn’t pay me. My father keeps scolding me that I’m supposed to be on vacation and I have to explain to him it’s the trade off for having fifteen weeks “off” in the summer. Of course, during the semester I tell myself that fifteen weeks “off” in the summer is the trade off for working sixty hours a week for what is barely a living wage. The bottom line is that, like a lot of grad students, I have more to do than can feasibly get done, so “breaks” become “catch up time.”

What really hit home today, however, as I left the office (having spent my second “vacation” day in a row there) is that it’s not going to change. I dealt with those ruined breaks back in undergrad by promising myself that when I got a grown up job my vacations would be true vacations. Little did I know then that I’d be going into academia. Part of the reason I had so much work to do yesterday is that it was catch up time for my boss as well, so he spent that time creating more work for me (I’m sure that’s not quite how he viewed it). I’m going into an industry where there’s no such thing as vacation time—you work it around the course schedules. There are sabbaticals, but you generally have to find a way to finance them on your own. Want to have a baby? (I don’t, but if I did…) You can take a semester off or pay for a substitute.

I just feel like some of my motivation is gone. All that, “It will be better when…” is turning into “I need to learn to cope with…” Ugh.

Anyways, I’ve decided I’m not going into the office tomorrow!

I brought home a bunch of files, so I could work from home.

Documenting Coffee

Would we have coffee with Ken Burns?

Cammy:  Absolutely.  I love this man’s work.  One of my earliest memories is of watching his documentary on the Shakers.  From his use of still photographs, to his careful incorporation of music, he has a style that sucks me in like no other documentarian I’ve ever watched–and I’ve watched a crap-ton of documentaries.  For the pure awesomeness he’s shared with us through The Civil War, Thomas Jefferson, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I owe this man whatever beverage he likes.  I’d love to know what other person/era/event he has in his targets for the future (I know there are plans out to at least 2018–I’m particularly looking forward to the planned Country Music).  Are there any subjects/people that he has marked as just too difficult to cover properly?  And while I definitely love that he covers American history, is there anything outside the US that he’s ever considered focusing on?  How does he narrow the material down for his documentaries?  I’m more willing than normal to pepper this man with questions.  Kristy might need to restrain me.

Kristy: Sure. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve seen very little of his work. I saw some of The Civil War, but remember very little of it. But even if I don’t watch as many of them as I feel I should, I find documentary films very interesting. I’m interested to know if there’s anything he found while working on any of his documentaries that changed his mind/feelings about anything. I’m interested to know what got left out of them, and why. And I’d even be interested to know how he wound up going into documentary film in the first place.

Five Purse Rants

I am on a mission to find the perfect purse/handbag for my upcoming trip.  I’ve been on this quest for about 3 weeks and I really don’t understand why makers of women’s handbags don’t just read my mind and make what I want.

Let’s start with what I want to carry:  two relatively thin magazines, small notebook, a ballpoint pen, a trade paper-back, my phone, my passport, my keys, a hanky, money, credit cards, and an iPod nano.  This is slightly more than I usually carry, and the magazines are what’s really keeping my current purse out of the running in the area of size.  The hope is to have something smaller than my backpack in which everything I could really want to access during a long flight is included.  I want my backpack in the overhead, and this under the seat so as to free-up foot room for me.

I’d hoped to find something relatively flat, that hands vertically more than horizontally.  This is rant 1:  Why must so many purses get their room from lying horizontally?!?!?  This makes for a really awkward bag, in my opinion.  When you’re walking through a crowd, rather than having something that matches to your side, you now have this extraneous mass both for and aft of you to get in the way and inadvertently smack other travelers.  Fail!

When you do find one that hangs horizontally, they usually aren’t quite big enough for the magazines I’m looking for.  They are either too narrow (a little horizontal is okay, guys, really!), or they are a little too shallow in their length. They usually aren’t off by much, but enough that you’d never get a copy of The Writer in comfortably without completely  mangling the corners and such.  Here comes rant 2:  If you’re going to have a vertical hanging purse, why would you NOT make it big enough for a standard pad of paper or magazine?!?!?  I can think of nothing that fits neatly into these longer-hanging bags that I found.  It sits squarely in the too-small-for-a real-sheet-of-paper.  So if you can’t carry a magazine in it…what the hell is the length for?  You’ve just contributed to the universal bag-fail of  everything winding up at the bottom of a deep pit.  Only in this case, you made the pit deeper with no discernible benefit otherwise.

I reconciled myself to possibly having to move to something less ideal.  More horizontal, perhaps.  And rather than a purse with the built-in organizational compartments for ID, credit-cards, etc, I could possible settle for a less structured bag if I could find a good wallet with a wrist-band that would hold my money, credit-cards and had a place for my cell.  This would allow me to jettison the bag after my flight and go with just the wrist-let and my camera case for outings in my destination.  But this was going into 2 items to buy now, which is where we get rant 3: Price.  Dear Lord.  Nothing is going to make me spend $40 on a wallet with a wrist strap or $90 on a simple cloth bag.  Especially not when the thing is so fugly I’d be embarrassed to be seen with it.  Contributing to the ugliness is rant 4:  Shininess and Bling.  Dude.  I don’t want my purses or wallets to be encrusted in rhinestones, shiny metal ornaments, chains, gold lame, or to be shiny patent leather.  Ugh.

So much looking and failing to find what I liked softened me even to the ugly factor and somewhat to price, but that led to the final straw and rant 5:  Brand name emblems.  I’m highly not impressed by brands.  I don’t know what MK or DB stand for, so having them emblazoned all over the already ugly and less-than-perfectly functional bag is just annoying (and ads to the ugly).  Frankly, if I’m going to be the insane prices for some of this shit, then I feel like I should get a discount for the free advertising these manufacturers and designers get by me walking around with some huge metal decal slapped over the initialed fabric on the monstrosity.

With all the useless purses I’ve seen, you’d think my perfect bag would be there, but I’m fairly sure now that it doesn’t exist.  I’ve got more rants than these (quality of fastening of the straps, type of straps involved, methods of closure…), but with the earlier fails already overwhelming the search, I’m thinking I may have to give up and reconcile myself to the backpack under the seat….

 

On Idiotic Alcohol Laws

A while back Cammy threw out the idiocy of alcohol laws that prohibit store and restaurant employees under eighteen from even touching a closed container of alcohol. I’m quite familiar with these laws having worked at a restaurant that served beer when I was in high school. I hate these laws mostly because they make life suck for the poor employees. Yes, it might be a mild inconvenience for the patron who has to wait a few extra minutes for his/her tasty beverage, but for the employee, in my experience it all too often plays out like this: Ask older coworker to get the beer. Get snapped at by older coworker. Listen to sarcastic, totally unwitty comment from customer. Explain to customer you are under eighteen and don’t have $5000 lying around to pay the fine you could incur from handling it. Argue with customer who doesn’t believe you are under eighteen. Ask another older coworker since the first one hasn’t gotten the beer yet. Get snapped at by both older coworkers. Smile weakly at customer when he/she finally leaves with the beverage. (Rant about how many Americans find it acceptable to treat customer service employees like crap to come in another post.)

But beyond the emotional scars that these situations leave on hardworking teens, they’re also largely idiotic. The only justification I’ve ever heard for them came from a dorm mate who was active in SADD. She offered the scenario of a geeky sixteen-year-old working alone at a convenience store when some bigger kids from his school come in and try to buy alcohol. He knows they’re underage, but if he refuses to sell to them he risks getting beat up at school on Monday. Apparently, however, they will totally understand when he says, “Sorry dudes, I’m under eighteen.” Okay, I guess the idea is probably that it will keep businesses that sell alcohol from leaving sixteen-year-olds to run the place alone. Which… Seems a little backwards. I totally believe sixteen-year-olds should not be left alone in a business that sells alcohol, but if that’s the issue, why isn’t that the law?

This past week I learned of another idiotic alcohol law. I don’t know if this is local or federal or what. I was in a coffee shop and ordered a glass of malbec (because all the best coffee shops serve wine). The barrista took my money and poured my wine, then walked around outside of the counter to hand it to me. Seeing my raised eyebrow, she explained that although they have a liquor license, because they aren’t a bar, they can’t hand alcohol over the counter. So they can sell it and I can drink it, but it can’t pass over the counter. What the hell is the purpose of that? Seriously, someone explain the logic, because other than making the employees burn a couple extra calories, I can’t for the life of me figure out what that’s supposed to do.

I realize that there are reasons to make laws about the selling and handling of alcohol. I don’t agree with all of them, but I do get that they have a purpose. But can we at least try to make them make sense?

Playlist for a Time Vampire

Taking care of the music has always rather fallen to me in our family.  In the cassette tape days, I was the one coming up with mixed tapes for the road before family trips.  Then came the CDs.  Now it’s the playlists for the MP3 player.

I always considered it an art.  You need to start strong–usually up-beat.  I prefer to end on something slow and a bit melancholy.  You sprinkle in songs appropriate to the areas you’re traveling, you vary the genres, the speeds, and in the case of my collection, the languages to maintain a balance.  Occasionally you have fun, like the time I had an entire CD where back to back pairs of songs all had something in common–a phrase, a background singer.

My upcoming trip in the month of December requires special planning.  I’ll be gone for more or less a full month, and have probably 50+ hours spent on planes.  I’m going to need a lot of music, a lot of variety, some familiar must-haves (Reba, George), current obsessions (Lucero, Jaime Camil and Bollywood) some new music to tie to the new things I’ll be seeing (still to be identified and purchased), and, to add complexity, this is all happening over the holidays.  I’ll grant you that Christmas in the middle of summer in the Australian bush doesn’t feel very Christmas-y to our Northern Hemisphere set, but the thought of a holiday season without a shot of “Silent Night” is unconscionable to me, so I’ll have to mix in some holiday fare.

I’m left with a delicate task to balance all of these into the perfect playlist to cover the flights, a family Christmas, a side trip to New Zealand (Lord of the Rings soundtrack?  Check), and road-tripping for probably 6-8 hours with my entire family.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done myself any favors by neglecting my music library.  I’ve never really done a proper transfer and clean-up to the new server.  The lengthy library refresh-times as I’ve sat down and added in essential tracks and re-ripped CDs has delayed my efforts to begin constructing this playlist, eating into the dwindling window until departure.

If I would just load up the Mp3 player at random, it would be enough to satisfy most people….but I can’t.  The desire to score major trips and events in my life with the proper music is just too great.  Without the right sound, I’ll be thinking of what could have been.  I need this to fully enjoy the experience.  And if it devours as much time as the trip itself?  So be it.