Archive for August, 2009

August 30, 2009

a peek into my library account

Checked Out

1. I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This – Jacqueline Woodson

2. Hush – Jacqueline Woodson

3. The Dear One – Jacqueline Woodson

4. Autobiography of a Family Photo – Jacqueline Woodson

5. Between Madison and Palmetto –  Jacqueline Woodson

6. Maizon at Blue Hill – Jacqueline Woodson

7. Lena – Jacqueline Woodson

8. From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun – Jacqueline Woodson

9. The South Beach Diet – Arthur Agatston

10. Saint Iggy – K.L. Going

11. This American Life – Season One

On Hold

1. Adventureland

2. Apartment Therapy:  The Eight Step Home Cure -Maxwell Gillingham Ryan

3. The Big Bang Theory – Season One

4. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

5. Deliverance

6. Grey Gardens

7. House, M.D. – Season Five

8. I Love You, Man

9. Prada and Prejudice – Mandy Hubbard

10. Sex and the City – The Movie

11. The Soloist

12. Zack and Miri Make A Porno


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August 29, 2009

After by Amy Efaw

I’m not really ashamed to read and enjoy books that are a little… dare I say… trashy. Much like I’m not ashamed to watch Sixteen and Pregnant, or watch The Family Stone 6 or 8 times a year. My tastes are not particularly discerning. I’m okay with that. And I also don’t think trashy-bad-salacious necessary means lesser quality. A book might be competently, cleverly written despite a hokey premise. A story might drag you along no matter how contrived the scenarios. Great characters can be found in any book. Think every Jodi Picoult book ever written. Think The Chosen One. Think (for 90% of the planet) Twilight.

And now think After, by Amy Efaw. It’s a ripped-from-the-headlines story that will make you forget it was ripped from the headlines. It’s a book that takes place primarily inside of a juvenile detention center that doesn’t feel like it does. It’s a book that isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but the way the story unraveled within the protagonist’s  interior and the depth of her character made me forget about that.

That protagonist is Devon Davenport. Straight-A student, goody-two-shoes, soccer star, mature beyond her years, and charged with the attempted murder of her newborn baby.

I don’t really need to go deeper than that, I don’t think. That’s the story. Of course there are complications – a rotten family situation, the “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” phenomenon to ponder, and a series of events Devon just won’t go into – but that’s the salacious headline that gets you reading.

The third-person present narration is a bit awkward. The characters are a little too easy – the tell-it-like-it-is woman lawyer, in particular. But besides holding that suspense of “OH MY GOD, WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN??”, After brings up a lot of interesting psychological issues that seem to affect teenaged girls disproportionately – sexuality, shame, denial, abusing power over your physical self, and of course, redemption.

The kind of book that adults will probably feel a little silly reading, but could prove powerful in the hands of an actual teenager.

Amazon Link | Amy Efaw Online

August 27, 2009

late night rendevous

Last night at 11:30, I wandered around some random Kinkos, waiting for the boyfriend to finish his business. Did you know there is no such thing as Kinkos anymore? It used to be FedEx Kinkos, but now is just FedEx Office or something. Poor Kinkos. Anyway, the boyfriend was standing at the counter, transacting, and I was wandering, glancing at all the wonders to behold at such a store. Completely unaware that I was wearing a striped bra under a white tank top. But that’s an insignificant detail. So I flipped through a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I found a Koosh ball, walked all the way across the store just to throw it at Lance. I looked for thank you cards. I inspected the Post-It notes.

And then I saw them.

The elusive twenty-pack. Never seen in the real world, just on the internet.

Why why WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SO POOR!

August 24, 2009

last night

We had to switch cars, so we came home. According to carefully laid plans and previous bouts of stress and decision, we were going to leave the pick-up and let our parents drive us back to Boston, but carefully laid plans did not account for a 6 a.m. starting bell for work and an apartment 3 miles from the early buses. So now we are back to square one – we don’t want a car, but we need one, and we certainly can’t afford MA insurance, so we have 30 days to Figure Something Out.

And 2 days at our respective homes. In my home, I managed to piss off one of my sisters, forget to call my best friend back about a free window air conditioner (which I couldn’t decide if I wanted or not), fret about my finances so vocally that my parents slipped me a few twenties, and completely lose my creative mojo.

None of those things actually had to do with being home, however. Home is fine. Home is dandy. Caroline and I did a puzzle.

Photo 150

I did get to see my best friend – I stopped by work. I faxed something to my insurance agency so maybe they will send a check in the mail, and I filled out some papers so my mutual funds can be in my name instead of my mother’s.

I made a corn and black bean salad.

I made a whiskey sour.

I (futiley) caught up with last week’s Mad Men so I could watch with my parents.

I spent a grand total of 8 dollars, on car snacks.

For tomorrow. Cause I gotta get back in the car and venture back to the land of no internet, sweltering heat, and um… other Bostonian delights. Trader Joes. Driving in the road with trolley cars. You know.

August 21, 2009

if you can’t stand the heat

The boyfriend had a craving for mac and cheese. Although two young people still at least two weeks away from a paycheck should have gravitated toward the Kraft Blue Box, or at *least* entertained the idea of whipping up a bunny box of Annie’s, we threw caution (and 7 dollars worth of cheese) to the wind.

So we traded off standing in the sweltering kitchen, with two burners a’burning and one oven a’roasting-the-eff-out-of-our-entire-apartment.

Please note that my only square of countertop is just about as wide as my boyfriend’s hand. Tragic.

So three grocery stores, 6 pounds of sweat, and 15 minutes spent fretting over a roux, we had this.

“This is probably the best I’ve ever had,” and I quote.

Crackaroni and Cheese

from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Martha Stewart)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Jessica’s Alterations

-Halved the recipe. Still plenty to be had.

– Ripped up old french bread rather than wasting money on a gummy loaf of white bread

– Used whole wheat flour instead of white. Perhaps led to the “Will this ever thicken?” dilemma, and definitely left an interesting texture! But otherwise, acceptable substitute.

– Skipped nutmeg and cayenne, because we are poor.

– Used bowtie pasta, because it’s prettier!

– Cooked it all up in a round cake pan, cause we don’t have a casserole dish.

– Stuck it under a broiler for <5 minutes, for the brown and toasty factor.

Operation mac and cheese? Success. I love Smitten Kitchen

But how will we reheat it without a microwave?

August 18, 2009

the boston chronicles

I. Peeping Tom

My apartment has five windows, which provide excellent lighting, and an even better view. Sure if I had a front apartment, I could be looking out over Olmstead Park and hear the whizzing of cars flying down the road. But I like the courtyard just fine.

I can see bits of other people’s homes. Windowsill plants galore! Can I knock on your door and take a peek at the rest?

And every morning, at about 10 o’clock, someone turns their TV on really, REALLY loud. The acoustics bounce the noise all the way up to my windows and it’s almost like I’m sitting next to them.

And they are always watching The Office.

II. Tureened

Lance arrived in my driveway close to midnight, with a truck filled with his own belongings.

It became quickly evident there wouldn’t be enough room for it all.

So I left my IKEA chair, my books, my espresso machine.

My hair dryer, curling iron, and straightener.

The next day, we began unpacking. I opened an unmarked cardboard box – one *about* the same size as that of my coffee maker – and found this.

The Soup Pot.

Lance’s Soup Pot.

Mind you, we don’t have any friends here with which to share soup. Or a table to serve soup upon. Or a pot big enough to cook this much soup.

One of many minor differences of opinion we will have, I’m sure. Some people just think decorative chicken pots are more useful than caffeine. More important than an English major, Lit Grad Student’s books.

Secret: it’s growing on me. Don’t tell.

III. Lonely Guacamole

Somewhere during a tense trip to the grocery store – you know the ones where you know your spending too much money, but you also know you can’t live without laundry detergent or overpriced paper towels – I picked up an avocado.

It was cheap, as far as those delicious, wrinkly green guys go. But I forgot about him somewhere in between a panic attack and pulling out my debit card.

I would have put him back.

I’d changed my mind.

But there he was, in my speck of a kitchen, waiting to be eaten. Even though I didn’t want to eat him. He was brown. Tired. Mushy. And Lance doesn’t even like avocados that much.

I turned him into poor-man’s guacamole, out of mercy. I squeezed too much lemon, sprinkled too much salt, and carved the brown bits into the giant yellow garbage bag that is still overflowing with a week’s worth of garbage.

IV. What Good Christians Would Do

After a day spent sitting on hardwood floors, our butts decided the couch could no longer wait.

First stop, yard sales. People in Boston move and need to rid their homes of every belonging. We visited the first sale that had a map printed on the flier. It took us to a house-share, occupied by at least 4 twenty-something hipsters, one of whom was leaving Boston to Jack Kerouac it across the US. He showed us a broken-down dresser, and when we cried “futon, futon” he showed us a mattress so unloved and stained and sorry looking that it hurt my heart.

So to Craigslist it was.

Me, disheartened by The Saddest Futon On The Face Of The Earth, browsed the For Sale section. Anyone giving away a futon probably didn’t love it very much. Or love material possessions (and their cleanliness) as much as I. Lance The Eternally Thrifty, checked out the Free listings.

“Look, 75 dollars for a futon AND a chair,” I said.

“Look, a free futon, posted 20 minutes ago!” he said.

He made a few calls. I resigned myself. It was free! We had a pick up truck. Worse comes to worst, we leave it on OUR curb and pretend the whole thing never happened.

An hour later, we rolled up to a Seminary, tucked into the woods of Beverly, MA. A couple met us in the drive of their family housing unit, standing next to the most beautiful futon I’d ever seen.

She was getting her masters in Divinity something or another. They homeschooled their 13-year-old triplets – two of whom had spent the past month sleeping on this mahogany wonder of a couch/bed – and just wanted to get the thing off their hands. He helped load it into the back of the truck, and strategized the best route for tying it down.

The best moment of Boston, by far.

Also see, Worst Moment: getting a wood framed futon up three flights of stairs.

V. What I’ve Been Doing

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering exactly what I’ve been up to for the past week or so, here in this new city. Besides these insignificant anecdotes – a few high moments and then some lows – I don’t really have much to tell as of yet. Because it’s really hard to do ANYTHING when it’s 95 degrees outside, on the third floor, in a non-air conditioned apartment.

This fan is my new best friend.

We’ve been to J.P. Licks 4 days in a row for ice cream, internet, and AC.

I haven’t organized, cleaned, or met up with any past or future friends.

I’ll surely do something more interesting once I stop breaking a sweat walking from the bathroom to the kitchen.

August 16, 2009

Fat Cat by Robin Brande

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to move across the country and take only what she can fit in the back of a pickup truck.

Okay, not every girl’s life.

But this girl had to whittle her extensive library of books down to a few boxes. Three flat Rubbermaids – the kind that slide under your bed – and this one little cardboard one for some more I just couldn’t bear to leave behind. I focused on two categories – Must Haves For Every Library, and You Haven’t Read This But You Really Should.

At midnight on Wednesday, it became clear the books were just not going to fit. So miles and miles later, this girl has been left with one dinky reject box of books.

Luckily, this one made the cut.

Fat Cat is about a brainy, chubby girl who suffers from a case of hidden low self-esteem. But now she’s enrolled in a notoriously brutal and competitive independent study, where you don’t choose your own science fair project but will be expected to kick ass and take names anyway. And for Cat, she’d really-really like to kick the ass of Matt McKinney, her former best friend who betrayed her years ago. So her science fair project is suitably ambitious – a school year spent living like her far-gone evolutionary ancestors. That means no TV, no cell phones, no meat, and no processed ANYTHING. With herself as a guineat pig, Cat hopes to impress the judges with her dedication to the field, and maybe impress Matt in the process.

As someone who counts Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to be one of the best books I’ve ever read, and who is usually floored by anything Michael Pollan decides to dream up, this was a fun book. YA with a food politics slant. But it’s not TOO politicky, nor is it too sciencey. If anything, it might be a little too Romancey Romancey, but in a good way. And this is YA, you know. Anyway, I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying this is yet another book about a girl who falls for her best friend, but there’s the part where Cat doesn’t even LIKE her best friend, and once the pounds start to fly off, all these other eligible bachelors appear from the wings.

I’ve been reading a lot of A+++ YA lately, since, well, I aspire to write A+++ YA. This isn’t going to top the Printz charts, I don’t think. However, it was good enough to make me reconsider my A+++ dreams and settle for a solid MidList success.

This one comes out in October, so look out for it then! She has another one out – Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature – and I hope it made it into one of those other three boxes sitting in my garage.

Amazon Link | Robin Brande’s Website

August 14, 2009

arrival

We have arrived, safely and soundly, albeit tiredly.

Our apartment is now full of our things, but none of our furniture.

And we do not have the internet.

But three things we do have?

1) Delicious sandwiches and scammed internet.

2) A full-time job at Whole Foods (that comes with a 20% discount)

3) A cupcake.

Thanks for all your well-wishes. I’ll be back when I can!

August 12, 2009

back in a flash

All my bags are packed,

(well, except for allergy meds, towels, some socks I just found in Dorothy’s drawer, and a few things I can’t seem to find a place for)

I’m ready to go

(as in, I’ve given up hope that I will ever be ready to go)

I’m waiting for Lance to arrive with a half-filled pick-up truck and we’re hitting the road.

So this is my way of saying I may be M.I.A. for a few days… weeks… or something.

I’ll be back,

in Boston.

August 10, 2009

technologically leaving

Click, delete. Yes, I would really like to delete. Goodbye, files, one by one.

I think it’s weird, how I kept all these vitally important files on my computer, months and years after they were created. Yes, occasionally they were useful, but now that I’m leaving, I don’t need “Pizza and Books Press Release Summer 2008” for any reason. I don’t need a spreadsheet that tells me when everyone’s fall schedules are. I don’t need the lyrics to “The Wheels on the Bus” sized out to print on huge-ass paper.

This reminds me of the winter of 2003. I was home for Christmas, my first break after leaving for college, and instead of testing my parent’s control over me or basking in holiday cheer, I decided I wanted to go through the giant Rubbermaids in my basement labelled “Jessica’s School Stuff.” When I moved to Mount Pleasant, mere months ago, I was unflinchingly sentimental. I wanted my room to stay as it was, the things in my closet to remain untouched, even though I knew Caroline would be moving in as soon as I left. I filled these Rubbermaids even fuller than they were before, and refused to throw anything away.

In December, I went out to the garage to get the big trash bags.

This was probably the day when I started to shed my severe pack-rat ways. I flipped through crinkled paper after crinkled paper. Third grade math assignment? Gone. Butterfly made of crinkled tissue paper and glitter? Goodbye. As I held each childhood artifact, instinct took over. I kept a little file of my report cards, for fun, but threw out everything else that was printed from a computer.

The things I kept: storybooks with covers made of wrapping paper and cereal boxes. The 4th grade biography of my friend Colleen – my first A+. The 4th grade marble notebooks where I earned Incomplete after Incomplete every stinking week because I couldn’t turn a dang thing in on time. The art projects that turned out better than I thought they would. The empty folder with an envelope taped to the inside. My best friend put it there, I remember, and gave it to me. She put stickers in the envelope, the 2×2 inch square with 5 different tiny animals.

So I click, delete, click, delete, thinking of those animal stickers, thinking how I will keep anything that defined my time here at the library, or that I have touched – the REAL me has touched. I will toss every J Series Project file (even though I *almost* poured my soul into it), but I will keep a copy of the coolest fliers I made, advertising my best program ideas I had. And I will keep an Excel spreadsheet that lists every book I’ve read since 2006.

I hold each file under my mouse for a moment, remembering two years ago when I worked on the Code of Conduct procedures for the coming school year, which resulted in MUCH improved behavior after school. I find a mostly finished list of Horse Books for J readers and move it to the Staff Drive for someone else to find after I’m gone. I don’t need to keep the Word Document where I listed Sarah Palin’s credentials alongside Barack Obama’s to shove in my father’s face, but it reminds me of how amazing and exciting and nasty last fall was. I print something that might look nice a library portfolio some day.

I have an exit interview. A party. A desk shift. And one last writer’s workshop. 8 more hours. There are zero books left on my library card.

I click, delete, yes I would like to delete.

But to the rest, I will say goodbye.