Archive for June, 2011

June 29, 2011

on boston

My boyfriend and I decided to move to Boston in May of 2009. We moved into our Jamaica Plain apartment in August.

This is what it looked like:

…almost two years ago.

We’ve been Bostonians/Michigan Ex-pats/City-Slickers for almost two years now.

(Oh, the time.

It flies)

I used to think a lot about The Move. About what it means to me, for my life, to live in a city hundred of miles from my family, in my 20s, for no logical or practical reason.

I could easily be living in Michigan right now.

But I’m not. I wanted to go to grad school, and I decided to leave.

I used to think a lot about how my life is different than it would have been in Michigan. Living here used to make me feel special, like I’d done the impossible. Leaving home was a bit of a “jump and the parachute will appear” kind of affair. We arrived with little money, job prospects that would qualify as “underemployment,” and not much else, but good things slowly flowed our way. Still, even months after arriving, making dinner and doing laundry and getting off at the right bus stop usually felt triumphant. Walking down the street for a scoop of ice cream after work? Miraculous.

I don’t feel special anymore. Nor do I feel like I am “at home.” Living in a city like Boston requires sacrifices, and I’m very rarely happy to make them. I kick, I scream, and I feel crappy about life at least once every month or so. When things aren’t actively crappy, I’m no longer particularly starry-eyed to be sitting on the E-line anymore, either.

I’m not sure what I was looking for when I decided to come here, and I’m still not sure of what I’m looking for when I wake up every day.

In the meantime, I do like it here, where I live.

I like my classes and the opportunities that bandying about my course of study brings me. I like seeing authors when they are on book tours and having access to a large library system.

I like shopping for fancy groceries (even if they never go on sale).

I like walking places.

I like running places.

I like that almost everyone I meet is smarter than I am.

I like that friends and family are apt to appear for a visit or a conference and we can enjoy the city together.

I like the Charles.

I like that living here makes my boyfriend so happy.

I like that I am constantly meeting new people.

I like that I have friends here: friends who have lived in Boston for years, friends who moved from other big cities, friends who were like me and put all their chips on Boston to go to school, friends who are from Michigan themselves.

I like that when things are feeling actively crappy (read: now), I can think about this:

Me + friends + Friday night + neighborhood bar + 10 dollar fancy cocktail + cheese fries+ sleeping in

My life is questionable. But Boston is not a bad place for my questionable life to be.

 

June 27, 2011

one last hurrah

When July arrives (in like, 35 seconds), I will be blessed with an additional class added to the summer pile.

For those of you not in the know, summer class is a bit of a different beast than the regular semester.

  • Instead of meeting once a week for 3 hours, summer class meets twice a week for 3 hours.
  • Instead of meeting for 16 weeks, summer class meets for 6 or 7 weeks.
  • Instead of having evenly spread assignments and weeks without assignments, you have stuff due almost every class period.
  • Instead of being in “school mode,” you are in “summer mode,” which means you are more likely to make bad decisions like going out on weeknights and taking weekend trips and sleeping in and such.

So, I’m already entangled in a summer course. All of that stuff is going on. In July, I will add another course, which will double all of that stuff above…. pluuuuuussss….

  • This is a children’s lit class (argh)
  • This is a class that only runs for FOUR WEEKS (omg)
  • This is a class taught by a visiting professor (ihavenoideawhatiamgettingmyselfinto)

I gave myself a long weekend before this madness begins, so I’ve spent the past three days doing a whole lot of laying around. I haven’t opened my large, nerdy spreadsheet once. My library books are overdue, my apartment is full of half-completed cleaning projects, and I’m two and a half books deep into a Harry Potter Reading Marathon (will I make it to 7 before the 15th? Most likely not. See: July)

Three days of equal parts lethargy and clearing the decks for an intense four weeks.

But that’s the nice thing about summer session. It’s furious, but when it’s over, it’s OVER.

August 1 is going to feel so sweet.

June 23, 2011

you know you’re a grown up when…

Look what I just bought on Amazon!

Yeah. It’s a salad spinner.

Please don’t be jealous.

There’s nothing quite like buying kitchen supplies that makes you feel like a grown up lady.

Do small children need salad spinners? No. Heck, I am not sure I would *need* non-plastic cups and dishes right now, if I didn’t already have them.

But you see… it’s FARMSHARE SEASON! So I have all these greens to eat, and since they are farm-fresh, they are also farm-dirty and need washing. And then need drying so I don’t have puddles on my plate.

See, grown up thinking.

This week on my food blog:

June 22, 2011

happy blah day

I am feeling too blah for words today.

There is only one cure I can think of:

dreaming about a new kitten.

Look how cute the one I have used to be!

Or maybe an extended cuddling session with this grown-up kitty named Peach.

She grew up awful cute.

Please note that “working for another six hours” is not a valid cure for any blahs.

And to that, I say: double blah.

June 20, 2011

the messiest neat freak you will ever meet

One of my summer classes started last week. LIS 415: Information Organization, or The Class Formerly Known As Cataloging. I know that I have expressed mixed feelings about my experience in library school and my opinions of libraries in general, but this class makes me feel a bit nerdy and squishy inside. Categorizing! Creating organization systems! Spreadsheet after spreadsheet after spreadsheet! I respond to that primal, human urge that causes children to collect thousands of rocks/buttons/My Little Ponies/bouncy balls/Pokemon cards and then spend hours placing them in jars/baskets/muffin tins/rainbow order. I get regular urges to play with Legos again; for me, “playing” with Legos was more likely to mean digging all the tiny Lego people out of the bin and separating their parts into piles and display cases and setting up a strange, Frankenstein Shop of Horrors where I could match the exact legs, torsos, faces, and hairdos needed for the optimal Lego Population.

Ahem.

Organizing stuff still remains a hobby of mine, although my “things” have now become more theoretical than actual. I can schedule my days and nights six ways to next Sunday. I can make spreadsheets so nerdy that I can’t even tell you about them.

My professor began our first session by asking the class to think about different forms of classification. “What do you organize,” she asked us, “other than books?”

My mind whirred, trying to think of something that actually made sense, that I could tell the class about. All I could think of was my silverware drawers. We have two. When we first moved, I used one drawer for everyday utensils and the other for things like measuring cups, spatulas, and the egg separator. However, the two drawers were not created equal – the Everyday Drawer is deeper and taller than the Occasional Drawer – and therefore more prone to getting jammed with larger items like measuring cups, spatulas, and the egg separator. This was just an occasional annoyance, until one day a drunk friend pulled too hard and yanked off the entire front of the drawer.

Another cataloging mistake: I wrongfully classified the beer-opening devices as “occasionally used.”

The rest of the class wasn’t doing much better. One girl offered up her spice collection. She and the professor riffed on different ways to sort your spices: alphabetically, of course, but maybe savory/sweet might be a better arrangement, or by size of the container depending on your space constraints, or maybe brand if you liked to keep fancy spices for fancy occasions.

“Anybody else organize their spices?” the professor asked. Nobody responded. “Really? No organization at all? You all just throw anything anywhere you please? You live amongst heaps of unclassified spices? I would hate to peek in your cupboards!”

Yes, yes you would, Professor of Mine. My spices are literally shoved anywhere I please, I can never find them when I need them, and they are constantly laying over on their sides or falling out of the cupboard and cracking the lids.

Despite my penchant for organize living, I’m a freaking slob 98.8% of the time.

The truth: my apartment is not currently governed by the laws of any classification system or logic whatsoever other than When I Unpacked Last September, That’s Where Things Went and Whatever I Used Last Is Probably Still Sitting On The Top of the Pile of Crap.

However, I still feel those metaphysical urges to sort my buttons, to see things in the place that they belong, to disassemble all my Lego people, to ALPHabetize my BOOKS! So I’m trying to grasp at some agency and organize some of the physical things in my life rather than just the theoretical.

I’ve narrowed down my problem areas to the following categories:

1) Wicked bad habits

See:

  • Not putting things away after I use them
  • Not cleaning things/rooms regularly
  • Pack-ratting

Some of these can be fixed with the creation of good routines. For example, I’ve been training myself to unload the dishwasher in the morning while I cook my breakfast, to put away my makeup after I put it on in the morning, and to clean the kitchen to a sparkle before bed. These things all involve doing a specific action at a specific time, and aren’t too hard to develop.

Other problems require the occasional setting-aside-of-time to tend to semi-regular chores. Making time to do the nitty-gritty cleaning on the weekends. Designating a weekend to reorganizing a room or switching out a seasonal wardrobe or adding to the Goodwill pile or sorting through the semester’s school papers. Those changes are harder to make because occasional tasks can’t be hardwired into your life like a true habit. You have to really prioritize the task at hand r within a few months, you can get completely swamped with nonsense.

The worst problems to fix, I think, are systemic. It’s one thing to walk yourself into the kitchen to scrub the counters every night, it’s quite another to teach your hands not to put things down (cups, papers, notebooks, books, anything) and forget about them until they are stacked to the ceiling.

Slow but steady. Some people are hardwired for this stuff. Despite my better wishes, I am not. In the best circumstances, I am kind of neat. In the worst, I am pretty messy.

Which brings us to another problem.

2) The Small Space/Small Pocketbook Syndrome

When I say my apartment is arranged by “Proximity To Where The Cardboard Box Was When I Opened It Last September,” I am not joking at all.

On September 1st, my kitchen looked like this:

 I couldn’t eat without unpacking all those boxes, so I had to do it quickly and efficiently. Proximity (I put the microwave there, so there it will stay) and uncomplicated logic (my roommate is short so I should take the cupboard over the stove) prevailed.

For an example of how this logic has failed me, see: kitchen drawer anecdote above.

Living in such a small space with two other people gives me the sensation that there is literally no other place for things to be other than where they are. I can’t rearrange the furniture, because if I move the futon here, then I’d have to move the other futon there, and I’d have to pull the TV away from its cables… etc etc

Many people do amazing thing organizationally with small spaces. I am jealous. However, I am but a lowly grad student who barely cleared 15k on her income taxes last year. I cannot afford most of the nicer things at IKEA, much less custom-fitted shelving.

But money and space needn’t cripple me. I’ve set myself against a few tasks in the past month or so that have made a surprising impact on my day-to-day life. I moved the microwave from one counter to another…. and doubled my kitchen workspace and made the entire room seem bigger. I cleaned out under the sink and in the pantry closet – not only do I not suffer from falling brooms smacking me in the face any longer, but I found a load of useful goodies in there! Two bottles of unopened dish soap, a pack of 100 bendy straws, and a Magic Eraser!

And yes, I could probably spend some more money on organizing crap, too. I’m not THAT destitute. Just like putting time aside to mop the floors, putting a little money aside once in awhile for some new plastic tubs or shelves is just a matter of prioritizing.

And what I lack in money, I make up for in creativity.

See: Lego People Chop Shop, c. 1995

June 19, 2011

patriarch

Hi, Dad.

I was going to call you, but then I went over my first assignment with my roommate and realized I got half the questions wrong so I had to sit down and get the work done.

Now, it is 9 o’clock and the homework isn’t quite done. I haven’t taken a shower since Friday. The laundry isn’t folded. And the kitchen is trashed.

I cooked greens… with beets. But they were actually good. I think you would have liked them. And some homemade macaroni and cheese. Which you wouldn’t have liked because you don’t like eating so much cheese… but there was cauliflower in it!

Anywho, I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this afternoon and am now watching the movie while I pound out the rest of this assignment.

Remember how you read the books to Caroline and Dorothy and decided to pronounce Hagrid “hay-grid,” Hermione “her-mee-oh-nee,” and Crabbe and Goyle “crabby and goy-lee?”

Remember 10 years earlier, when you read me The Neverending Story and decided to pronounce Fantastica “fantastica” and I got indignant because in the movie, it’s called “Fantasia,” and you said “I already decided how to read it, I can’t change my mind!”

I hope you had a good day today. I won’t call you tomorrow because I have to work 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Maybe Tuesday.

Fantastically yours,

Jessica

June 17, 2011

my life in pictures, pt. 2

Photo #1: Damian Kulash

A few weeks ago, went down to the Esplanade to see a free OK Go concert in the band shell.

I really like OK Go. There was this one semester in college when my iPod mini ceased to hold a charge and wouldn’t tolerate my bad habit of skipping madly through random songs on shuffle. I had to pick an album and stick with it. For many, many workouts, I picked Oh No.

I also really like concerts that are free, short, and out-of-doors on a nice, sunny day.

We arrived shortly after the first song ended and found a nice spot to stand near the stage but not in any danger of accidentally entering a mosh pit. This is one of my biggest fears at concerts: mosh pits can just appear and before you can get out of the way, you’re getting pushed around and your toes are all stepped on.

Anyway, shortly after we settle in for the concert, the lead singer jumps off the stage and heads into the crowd. He likes to perform this one song where he can see the audience. So he enters the audience. And parks himself four feet in front of us.

 Photo #2: Evan’s Way Park

It was a short concert, but a long walk.

We got tired on the way home. These displaced Midwestern boys I hang out with saw some grass – the same grass I’ve walked by a hundred times on my way to school and back – and decided it had been far too long since they laid upon some grass.

 What weirdos.

Photo #3: My Sister Dorothy Plays the Oboe

She is also getting her driver’s license at the end of the summer. Blech. Let’s not think about that one.

Photo #4: My Cat Is Still A Strange Sleeper

June 15, 2011

my life in pictures

I feel weird writing something here without a picture to show you. I mean, I don’t mind READING stuff online that doesn’t have pictures, but I still feel like an entry is more substantial, more finished, if there is something interesting to look at.

This occasionally creates a problem. You see, I don’t like lugging my stupid camera around with me, and even if I did, I’m not all that great at wanting to use it. On vacations, I typically make Lance the designated photographer unless I chance upon something particularly scenic. Unlike me, Lance is constantly snapping pictures and has thousands of them to show for his efforts. All those Chihuly pics? His.

So if I must Blog With Pictures, then I only have my relatively small amount of images to pick from.

So I must Blog About Whatever It Is I Took a Picture Of.

So today, I get to tell you about how when Lance spotted his first 12 pack of Sam Summer at the liquor store a month or so ago, he grabbed the box and held it over his head and sang that little song from Zelda. You know the one when you get some really cool item?

Oh, it’s this song! Just watch the first 10 seconds.

Bonus points for being yet another awesome example of Nerdy Children On Youtube. I love all you little guys, I really do.

Anywho, so my Fully Grown boyfriend carried the box around over his head for awhile, then we paid and went home and got to drinking.

And then I memorialized the blessed event with the taking of a zillion photos of the First Pour and the First Sip and the First Tasting of the Sam Summer Season.

Lance is clearly not the only nerdy one in the household.

Also: give us a break! We had a long winter! It was probably still snowing out or something.

Well that story’s out of the way.

Additionally, I could tell you about my cat and her strange sleeping habits.

Actually, I could do a whole series of entries on that one.

Because it’s pretty much all I take pictures of.

MY BLOG IS ABOUT TO GET SO EXCITING!!!!

Two Random Addendums:

1) Would you scroll back up for a moment and check out my boyfriend’s fine beard? Daaaaamn. It is gone now. He was happy to see it go.

2) Would someone like to talk me out of re-reading all 7 Harry Potter books over the next 30 days? I think I am going to have enough reading on my hands, buuuuuuut…. it’s Harry Potter!!!

June 13, 2011

fine art

Last Saturday, my friends and I decided to take the afternoon and visit the latest exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.

The MFA, if you will.

First stop, the Chihuly.

Oh, it was just exquisite.

If you get a free afternoon and you are in the area, you should really visit.

It was truly cultural.

But we quickly devolved.

We were hungry

Statue imitiations,

and facedowns.

And then we went to Qdoba.

The end!

June 11, 2011

my misspent youth

Fun fact about me:

I have really weird taste in Youtube videos.

Some favorite categories:

  • Old Sesame Street clips
  • The Swedish Chef
  • Live collegiate a cappella
  • Songs I find hilarious (but make other people wonder what is wrong with me)
  • Live tornado footage

And today’s favorite:

Children With Youtube Channels

It started with this inspired video

Seriously. I could watch it all day.

And then, I became strangely impressed with The Food Reviewer and his admirable commitment to video taping himself eating every food product in his home.

I’m not sure why I am so endeared to these young videographers. However, when I chanced upon this video early this morning, it hit me.

If I had a video camera and a Youtube Account when I was 12,

I would have been recording stop-animation music videos

to Weird Al songs

with my Legos.

I am almost 100% sure of that fact.