I got an unexpected gift today from a colleague: a cookbook of vegan desserts! I just spent some time paging through it (and fantasizing). Finding some of the ingredients may be a challenge, but I'm going to pick one recipe to make this weekend and then I'll head down to Little Rock for the not-usual-grocery-store-stuff if necessary. And yes, there is a recipe for sugarplums in the book, though I'm not sure it'll be the absolutely first one I try....
One of my favorite things about Conway (where I've lived for almost a decade now) is the McGee Center. There's a community garden and a skateboard/bike park outside. Inside there are racquetball and basketball courts with a track above the courts looking down onto them. I love to walk there. I hadn't been in awhile, but I went today before doing the week's grocering. I like the cross-section of people one sees there. I like the architecture. I like that it's "a clean, well-lighted place."
I had insomnia early this morning; around 4 a.m. I finally gave up trying to sleep naturally and got out of bed to take some medicine. While waiting for the pills to work (which takes about an hour and a half), I wrote a bunch of postcrossing postcards. Though I don't know any of the folks I'm sending postcards to, reading their profiles, choosing cards that they might like, and writing to them made me feel less lonely in those quiet hours between night and morning.
I ran into a student today who was in two of my classes last year but not any this year. He saw me before I saw him, and he gave me such a spontaneous and genuine greeting that it immediately gave me a little boost.
This morning Chris and I went kayaking early, since we didn't have to head to school right away. As we turned the bend around an island in the lake, we saw dozens of minnows leap out of and then back into the water, making sweet and perfectly coordinated arcs.
This evening Chris and I had dinner with a friend, and (unfortunately) I needed to debrief with them a bit before I could let a problem from my day go. My friend suggested the perfect solution: I can't implement it until tomorrow, but it is so spot-on.
So today I'm especially grateful for little leaping fish and problem-solving friends!
I found myself with an unexpected pocket of unscheduled time at school today, so I managed to complete all today's tasks and a good number of the tasks I had scheduled for tomorrow. This means that I bought myself the time to go kayaking early tomorrow morning; I can afford to be at work an hour or two later than normal. (I have to remember that I am lucky to have a job that occasionally allows me such flexibility.)
I wrote the entry above, then went for a walk with Chris. After our walk (on which we saw fireflies and a bat--hurray), I needed to write a diary postcard for an exchange I'm part of. That made me reflect on my day and realize that there were two other particularly good things that merit mention. One is that this morning I got a very kind call from a colleague who put my mind at ease about some things that were troubling me last night. The other is that a mail-friend sent me an invitation/encouragement to participate in the "Worldwide Moment" this year. Anyone can join in by signing up at worldwidemoment.org, but I wouldn't have known about it if he hadn't spread the word, and it's just the kind of thing I'd like to do.
I'm trying to cut back on desserts in general and to limit myself to one ice cream dessert a month. Today was it for August! We went to get frozen custard as a treat after our first day of classes.
In 2007 I made a happy peace with Henry James. Before that, I felt like he baffled me, and I had a hard time with his books. In 2007 I read The Bostonians, and ever since James has been in my "favorite authors" list. One of the James pieces that had given me trouble before my 2007 break-through is The Turn of the Screw, and I recently picked up a copy of it, determined to give it another go. Last night Chris and I watched The Innocents, a 1961 film based on The Turn of the Screw and starring Deborah Kerr (we're on a bit of a Deborah Kerr kick). So today I've been sitting on the porch and reading James' novella, having fun comparing and contrasting the film and book in my mind. I'm still finding The Turn of the Screw's prose harder than other Jamesian writing, but now I'm beginning to see why a twisting style might be especially effective with this work.
Earlier this week I wrote (happily) about how the run-up to the academic year was going more smoothly than usual. And it was--until Friday. Yesterday was taxing, and by the time we went to get pupusas, I really did need the comfort of comfort food. I went to bed more than a little frayed and more than a little dispirited. Not much of what was bothering me yesterday has changed today, except--crucially!--my attitude. Things seem lighter, brighter, and more do-able. What a difference sleep, cool air, and blue skies can make! In a few moments I'm going to head down to the lake with my kayak and enjoy a late-summer sunset on the water.
For the past couple of years whenever we've wanted Salvadorean food we've driven an hour and half to a small town tucked away in central Arkansas where there's a Salvadorean restaurant. The trip is fun, but it's also a substantial outing time-wise. We recently found a place that serves pupusas (our Salvadorean food-of-choice) that's a little closer, only about half an hour away. Today we went there for dinner. And those pupusas were definitely comfort food.
I've been hankering for corn fritters all summer, but I've been hesitant to make them because of the frying involved--it's just not good for me. But today I had a brain-wave: why not add corn to waffles? So we tried it for dinner, and with butter and maple syrup, the corn waffles sure did taste like fritters, minus the fat.
At my school we call the week of workshops, meetings, etc. before classes start "the run-up." Most people find it exhausting, and we all seem glad when classes finally begin. This year I have fewer responsibilities during the run-up time--so though I'm tired tonight, I'm less harried than I've been at similar points in the past. And that's a good thing!
A number of years ago students and professors at my school planted an Arkansas garden, populating it exclusively with native flora. It's one of my favorite places on campus. Today I walked through it at high, hot noon, and the warm smell of the flowers was so thick that I could feel it.
This morning we had a large all-faculty meeting at school. The best part of it was afterwards, when I got to chat with a number of people in passing (and some in a little more-than-passing). Well rested and full of good spirits, we were all glad to see one another.
One of my colleagues lives on the other side of the lake, and at the end of the school year in May we said that we would have to plan to do some kayaking together this summer. But it kept not happening--until this morning. And we're in under the wire: tomorrow is our first official faculty meeting of the year, so in a way "summer" ends tomorrow.
As we were setting the table late this afternoon for our dinner guests--2 adults and 4 children--I suddenly thought that paper crowns at each person's place would provide a sweet finishing touch. I don't know why I thought of this when I did; maybe I had seen it in a movie? In any case, Chris and I sat down and made 8 crowns out of pretty patterned papers we happened to have on hand. Within moments of arrival, some of the children had their crowns on, we adults wore ours, and even the teenager consented to puts hers on for part of the dinner.
I ran into two unpleasantnesses today, and the second one definitely bummed me out (more than it should have). But then I made myself realize that far more than two pleasant things occurred today, so today's good thing is that the day is a net gain of goodness. Particularly happy things:
- After eating breakfast on the porch with Chris and the cats, I went swimming with my neighbor on a calm lake in crisp, almost autumny air.
- Chris identified a tree in our woods as an Autumn Olive, and its berries are now ripe so I got to try a new-to-me fruit.
- I received four beautiful cards via postcrossing plus one great, quirky "found object" via sendsomething.net.
- A photo-swapping friend complimented a picture I recently sent her. (And I was really hoping that she'd like it, so I was grateful for her response.)
- One of my colleagues wrote to ask me about the reading quizzes I give in my Myth class because one of our shared students mentioned to him that they work well. Hearing that a student finds quizzes helpful makes a teacher's heart sing.
- Spending the evening making two batches of cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. We're having a family of 6 over for dinner tomorrow, so we have a chance to bake on a different scale, and it was fun, especially because Chris and I used it as hanging-out-together time.
- And, with a celebratory nod to Barbara (who's been visiting the blog), it's her birthday today and, as she says, she's beaten the odds. Hurray to that!
More phone-and-friend goodness today. Someone I haven't talked with in years (though we email occasionally) called unexpectedly, and I think we had a very pleasant chat. It made me really remember why we became friends in the first place!
I thought I had to finish writing some reports by a week from today, but I found out this afternoon that I have until the end of the month to turn them in! I still worked on them today, but I didn't have to be frantic about it.
This summer I switched my home computer from a PC to a Mac. I've been really happy with my Mac, but the biggest worry about making the switch involved my PC-only Greek font which I've used in countless documents for work and research. Chris ordered me my Mac before we had come up with a solution, and we decided to take a "cross that bridge when we come to it" approach (i.e., don't think about it until the school year starts and the issue becomes pressing). But today I got word that the updated versions of my Greek font will now work on a Mac. Hurray, hurray! This may seem like a crazy thing to be happy about--but, really, it's such good news.
I read the first chapter of John Barth's Chimera this afternoon, and it was so fun. And somehow it reminded me of what it felt like when I first read Italo Calvino back in the mid-1980s. I was glad to feel like a young, fresh reader again.
Yes indeed; I'm scared of snakes. But today Chris found a baby-baby-baby snake in the hay--it was about five inches long and oh-so thin. I let it crawl over my hand a few times before we let it go again.
This has been an odd summer for beekeeping. We've had more rain than usual, and we've found that it's not good to check hives on days before or after rain because the bees are more easily stirred up then. So what to do when most days are days before or after rain, or rainy days themselves? But today seemed good for a hive check, so we went into a hive that sounds testy every time we get near it. I braced myself in case the going got tough, but though the bees weren't thrilled with us, everything went okay. And now we have only one hive left to check.
Sometimes I find writing emails very (strangely) difficult. I had my out-of-office reply on my business email for the month of July, so now that it's back-to-work time, I need to go through the accumulated pile in my inbox. I've made steady progress over the past 3 days, and all the emails that I was most stressed about writing (for whatever set of mysterious reasons) are done.
A bright white moon tonight, and a new eye-piece for our telescope. I'm heading outside to take a look....
I enjoy cooking to a certain extent, but I have definite limiting parameters: we're vegetarian, I don't have much time to cook, I'm not good at multi-tasking in the kitchen, and Chris especially isn't a fan of cooked vegetables. I felt like I was in a dinner rut, so I recently ordered Moosewood's Simple Suppers and also their Low-Fat Favorites. Yesterday we made a Vietnamese noodle recipe from Simple Suppers, while today I made a Mexican pasta salad from the other cookbook--and these are the best dinners I've had (at a restaurant or at home) all summer. I feel inspired to be in the kitchen again.
I've written about Bolaño's 2666 a few times over the months I've been reading it. Today I reached the last page. Reading it was the mental and emotional equivalent of what I imagine a long endurance run to be like: demanding and exhilarating (sometimes at the same time, sometimes not), and revealing as much about the reader/runner as the book or road itself.
With the start of August comes the beginning of back-to-school season. (For instance, I need to go in to my campus office on Monday afternoon to do some paperwork.) This evening, we got to experience a pleasant part of the return of the school year: a colleague who usually spends her summers out of town has come back, and Chris and I met up with her for dinner.