16 May 2013 § 2 Comments
We sold our house! It happened a little bit like this, except that we have closed and we are now leasing our house back from the buyer, our new landlord. Strange, but good.
Selling the house, but not moving out just yet, has come with a sort of emotional limbo to mirror our physical one. Saying goodbye to our first house, which actually was perfect for us, and the responsibility of owning it, which I hated, is bittersweet, like saying goodbye to Nashville. Here we got married, made our first adult home, and made dear friends. We also committed 20% of our years thus far to grad school, years filled with tears and frustration and [all too seldom] celebrations of success.
It’s bizarre to think about no longer doing something you’ve done for a long time, especially when your life has been consumed by it. In two and a half weeks, I have to finish up in lab in order to go to an amazing internship, but none of that feels real right now. I am too used to how my life has been. Instead of feverishly working in lab or on packing up our house or on seeing friends before they and I leave, I am writing about it, maybe doing a bit of processing, but mostly just sitting with it.
Have you ever had a transition that you just needed to sit with?
19 March 2013 § 5 Comments
Around the time last month that I was riding the stress and grey weather struggle bus, one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, published this awesome post about how much books fill her up. After bedtime as a kid, I used up batteries in every flashlight I could get my hands on to sneakily finish my latest read. I’ve always been a reader, and getting back to reading for fun since the beginning of March has really helped turn my mood around.
In troubled times, I tend to choose books from my two favorite genres: YA Fantasy Fiction and Memoir. For me, both types of book serve as (to quote Glennon) “lovely reminders that you’re not alone.” In the spirit of not being alone, I wanted to share three of my latest reads:
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor: a fascinating memoir from Taylor, a neuroanatomist who had a stroke at the age of 37. The story details her life before, during, and after the stroke/recovery. With quite a bit of brain anatomy at the beginning, I was a bit bored (though my mom loved this part of it), but I was totally hooked after Taylor’s description of her stroke and recovery. She also goes into some more metaphysical/energy type stuff that I found thought-provoking. I listened to this on audiobook and it’s read by Taylor, which is a neat bonus.
Blood, Bones and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton: I started this memoir from Gabrielle Hamilton, a non-culinary school trained chef with a MFA in writing, in book form ages ago, and I couldn’t get into it. When I saw that Hamilton reads the audiobook, I decided to give it a try in audio form, and loved it. Good things about well-written memoirs (flagrant truth-telling of personal experience and a strong, clear author’s voice) combine with a compelling view of Hamilton’s world of being a chef, daughter, mother, and wife. I loved learning about being a professional chef and was struck by the similarities between being a woman in science and a woman in the restaurant biz.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Okay, so I just started listening to this today, but I am already absorbed in the story. Recommended by Molly at First the Egg, it’s a YA fantasy fiction book with a young female protagonist, a talented musician who seems to be becoming involved in a human/dragon conflict. I don’t know much about what’s happening since I’ve barely begun, but I’d love for some of you to read it so we could talk about it!
8 March 2013 § 3 Comments
I love hard cider, especially the dryer, less sweet commercial ones that are starting to show up more in stores (Crispin is a good example). We have several homebrewing friends and when one of them mentioned that she’s been fermenting cider at home and that it’s actually SUPER easy, I wanted to give it a try.
You can start with apple juice, like this one from Whole Foods, which comes in its own fermentation vessel:
Or if you can get it, you can use cider from an orchard (that’s actually what I did with my first batch because it was fall when I started and I found local cider at our farmer’s market). So you have the juice or cider, and you have to add yeast. I used a champagne yeast that was readily available at our local brew store:
I dissolved the yeast packet in a half cup or so of boiled and then cooled to just barely warm filtered water and added that straight to the bottle. Then I added an airlock, which you can buy really cheaply at your local brewing store. The airlock lets air get out without letting microorganisms/dust/dirt in. I put the soon to be cider in our utility closet, the warmest part of our house, to ferment and forgot about it. After ten-ish days, it looked like this:
I let the cider stay in the closet for a pretty long time after I stopped seeing bubbles in the airlock (meaning that the yeast was no longer letting off carbon dioxide, a result of turning sugar into alcohol). I could have (maybe should have) siphoned the cider off the caked of yeast at the bottom of the bottle into another fermentation vessel after the end of this primary fermentation to let the cider clear. Because I just did it all in one vessel, my cider had a little bit of a yeasty flavor, but oh well.
So I let the cider clear for six+ weeks and then bottled it. Before bottling I added a tablespoon and a half of priming sugar dissolved in a little boiled water, which gave the yeast enough sugar to carbonate the cider. I reused Grolsch bottles, which I sterilized beforehand, so Hubs and I had to drink eight pints of Grolsch in the weeks leading up to bottling (poor us).
Then I put the bottles in a paper bag to keep them in the dark and put them back in the utility closet for about another month. I took one out, refrigerated it overnight and tried it in December, but it wasn’t ready yet. I tried again in February and success! I just finished the last one, and I am super excited to start fermenting my second batch.
4 March 2013 § 1 Comment
Doppelbock, homebrewed expertly by Hubs, and then aged for six months (what self control we have). This beer is dark, but not bitter, with a malty, bready sweetness. The bacon crackers complimented the beer with salt, fat, and crunch (recipe).
28 February 2013 § 3 Comments
We bought a townhouse right before we got married, a year into grad school. Our place is in a great location and has been a fine first house. As we prepare to sell it, though, I am certain that in this case I let my aspirational self get in the way of who I actually am.
I first encountered the concept of an ideal or aspirational self on the 2000 Dollar Wedding blog and then more recently at Northwest Edible Life. The idea is that when we think about how we want our lives to look, we must strive to be authentic with ourselves. Sara might wish that she would be happy taking care of a farm, but her truth is that she’ll probably always be happier at her computer or sewing machine. In Erica’s parallel aspirational life, she weighs 150 pounds, but her husband reminds her that at age 30, when she actually did weigh 150 pounds, she was cranky, cold, and libido-less.
My parents bought a one owner fixer upper, unupdated since the 1960s, when I was twelve. As they exchanged dark pine kitchen cabinets painted with Bible verses and foil wallpaper for sleek, modern cabinetry and lightly textured, neutrally painted walls, I was proud of how great our house looked and how much of the work they did themselves. Enter the rise of HGTV and my hours skimming blogs like Young House Love, and I was pretty sure I was going to love owning and working on a house.
As Hubs and I stood on the brink of married life, with house down payment burning a hole in our bank account, I envisioned only our aspirational life. In this parallel universe, we happily visit Home Depot, paint rooms, and reglaze windows on the weekends. When something goes wrong, we gamely work together to find an immediate solution and are available to meet repair people at all hours of the day.
In real life, home ownership combined with the pressures of grad school has been overwhelming. On the weekends, we want to watch the entire first season of Homeland on DVD and brew beer, not reglaze windows. And I hate painting so much that I started painting a half bath (the tiniest room in the whole house) in November 2010 and my mom just finished it for me in January. One memorable Saturday included replacing old ceiling fans and me screaming f-bombs, while Hubs silently cursed the project (and me, probably). As far as repairs go, we paid an extra $10-20 on our water bill for months because of a leaky tub faucet. When we finally called the plumber, he replaced the fixture in less than three hours for half the price of the water that had just been going down the drain all that time.
I’ve learned so much about my authentic path through this first try at homeownership. While my parents now have a beautiful house, I’m not sure they would go the fixer upper route again, and I definitely will not. In fact, as we prepare to move to North Carolina this fall for Hubs’ postdoc, we are planning to rent. Maybe we can find a house with space for the garden I’ve been dreaming of, but we’re definitely going to think carefully about who we really are as we take this next step.
Where does your ideal self intersect with your real life? Where do they diverge?
25 February 2013 § Leave a Comment
I didn’t realize how demoralizing cold and drizzly days can be for me, until I noticed how much easier it has been to maintain an appropriate level of emotional response during this sunny, warmish past week.
I love this post from Martha Beck about “coping with a February.” Plus, I was watching or reading something the other day (can’t remember!) and it said something along the lines of, “February is the shortest month, but it seems like the longest.” Past the first sweater weather of the season and the holiday fun, being cold all the time and getting your feet wet because you optimistically wore non-waterproof suede boots kind of sucks.
Sometimes it can be super helpful to remember, though, as I turn on my space heater, that I’m not alone and that spring will come again.
11 February 2013 § 3 Comments
discovered why an experiment I have been attempting for several months has never worked: because I don’t have the fish with the genotype I thought they had.
realized that the flight I booked for a workshop in May last week during the Southwest sale was off by two days.
had a toilet overflow.
tried to convince Hubs we need to adopt another dog. (I failed).
spilled macaroni and cheese on my pants.