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adventures, by accident

Summer Travel

There’s benefits and challenges to working in an academic setting. It can be hard to take time off during the year, if not impossible, and we don’t get summers “off” the way actual teachers do. Luckily, it’s much easier to take time off in the summer for rest or travel or if you get sick, as our household recently did.

At the end of June I managed to take time off to visit my sister in Denver on my way to a conference in San Francisco. Sadly, the trip was cut short, and we missed a game at Coors Field, because weather in Baltimore grounded my flight and it was 36 hours before my rebooked flight. We had a great time anyway, sampling beers and walking around in an unusually warm Denver summer, plus short trips to Golden, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Between our grad school programs, relocations, and my recent wedding, it’s been a while since we’ve just gotten some quality sister/sister time, so even a shortened trip was a nice break.

I did manage to squeeze in a game with some friends at AT&T Park while I was in San Francisco, though sadly, the Giants lost. The weather was gorgeous and I had a great conference as well as getting to see and sample some of the city. There’s never enough time in San Francisco so I was extra-grateful for our trip last Christmas and all the stories from my parents – I didn’t feel quite as hectic as I might have otherwise. You can see a few pictures from this trip on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHskfh41zL.

In August I have a beach week coming up with my family, and then a wedding back again in the Denver area, before school starts at the end of the month. Of course the wedding fun continues with three more in September, which is going to be … hectic to say the least. Guess we started a trend!

Profiling Alex Morgan: routine sexism and a little plagiarism from FIFA.com

Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

The Sport Spectacle

In advance of Tuesday’s match, FIFA.com published an article about Alex Morgan. This English professor feels compelled to explore the quality and character of FIFA.com’s writing.

Morgan looking for a fairytale finish

Headline declares: do not be confused by gender ambiguous name. Alex Morgan is a girl, with girlish aspirations.

Alex Morgan is one of the most popular players in USA women’s football.

Alex Morgan is a popular girl.

A talented goalscorer with a style that is very easy on the eye and good looks to match, she is nothing short of a media phenomenon.

Where to start?

Describing Morgan as a “talented goalscorer” suggests she that has talents other than goalscoring—talents related to her popularity (e.g. she can twirl a baton and sing the Star-Spangled Banner; she makes a mean Negroni).

“A style that is very easy on the eye” is the kind of phrasing one associates with a real estate listing, or…

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YouTube

Last week I started on a new endeavor – really an experiment – in reviewing books on YouTube. My first video was predictably pretty terrible, with a lot of “umm”s and some very poor eye contact, but you never know if you don’t try. I had fun making it, which is enough for me for now. I like writing brief reviews on my GoodReads account, but I tend to express myself better verbally, so I’m hoping this will be another fun way for me to participate in book culture.

This first video focuses on books that have made me a better person. There were really only three titles, which is maybe not a great sign? It’s hard to know if that mean I have a loooong ways to go, or had a good start. [If you’re not a YouTube aficionado, I’m posting some brief reviews below for you to peruse.] One of the things that appealed to me about this tag was the amount of self-reflection it provoked. I’m used to evaluating books on their merits or weaknesses and trying to tease out the elements that make me like or dislike a book (or, since I’m a librarian, might make another person like or dislike a book). I don’t tend to think about how books impact me beyond making me happy/sad, or having more knowledge at the end than the beginning. Finding books that might have made me a better person was an interesting and challenging experience.

My first selection was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I barely remember my first experience with this book, which would have been in 5th grade. I wasn’t assigned it for school, but I think I recall reading it with my mom, or at least discussing it – I was cast as Scout in a local theater production of the play, and trying to “prepare” for that was what prompted reading the book. This is not a happy book, for the most part, as Scout struggles with growing up, with realizing racial inequities, learning to be kind and to think about other people, and to struggle to understand injustices out of your control. Atticus is a much-admired character for his attempts to do the right thing even when it’s hard, and my eventual takeaway from his character was that sometimes action is the most you can do. That’s awkwardly phrased, but as somebody who has often put a lot of emphasis on being “right” and “successful”, the idea of doing something because it’s a good thing to do, even if it’s a struggle or a disappointment, was a big revelation.

My second selection was ‘Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?’: and Other Conversations on Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum. I read this book the summer before my freshman year of college – the author was the dean of students at my college at this time, and incoming students got copies of the book to read. There are elements of this book I still think about almost every day – it was probably my first exposure to the idea of racism as a system rather than a personal failing, one of the first discussions of white privilege I experienced, and I think it laid a groundwork that’s been extremely valuable as I’ve gone on to read more about race, culture, and so on. It gave me language and a telescope for examining those issues in my daily life.

My final selection was Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I grew up in a pretty stereotypical suburban household: my family was educated and affluent, and most people around us lived fairly conventional lives of two-kid families and white-collar or professional jobs. For me, it was a great way to grow up, but I didn’t see a ton of other “lifestyles”, in the sense I very much considered my family and upbringing normal and didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about other options. My parents had the first three Tales of the City books, and I took an interest in them at some point, and eventually finagled my way into reading them (did I talk my mom into it? just take them? hard to say). And she was right – there was a lot in there I wasn’t really ready for … but I was so not ready that it more piqued my curiosity than alarming me. I don’t recall when I read these books, but I knew very little about the world of San Francisco in the 70s – clubs! drugs and drinking! sex! gay people! people who would not live in the suburbs! people who moved across the country to start over! I don’t think at the time the book made a huge impact on me, but it’s hung around in the back of my consciousness enough that I think it helped open my mind to the myriad ways there are to be a person.

… But it has introduced a lot of alarming possibilities about my parents’ lives in late 60s/early 70s San Francisco that I’d prefer remain un-examined. Part of being young is never having to explain it to your children, right?

CSA (Early Weeks)

The early weeks of a CSA can be pretty much straight greens. It’s intimidating! I belong to a CSA that delivers to my workplace, and I split a share with a friend from work so we don’t get too inundated with any one thing.

The first week of our CSA we got greens – red leaf lettuce and collards – and I took kohlrabi and garlic scapes as well as the greens. It’s been so warm and humid in Baltimore salad seems like the perfect meal, so I’ve been doing a lot of that, including Alton Brown’s Caesar salad recipe.

Plate of Caesear salad
Caesar Salad

A meal I can feature from week one’s bounty is a dinner of braised collards with sausage and penne. I stripped the collards and sliced it thin, then braised it in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and roasted garlic power, and a dash of soy sauce. I added two hot Italian sausages while the penne was cooking, and then dumped the drained penne into the skillet to mix everything up. It was a take on this recipe from The Kitchn — which I didn’t have quite the right ingredients for, as usual, so I modified. And, voila!

Dish of Sausage, Collards and Penne
Sausage, Collards, and Penne

This second week I took more red leaf and some chard, plus turnips and celtuce. I’d never even seen the latter before!  I’m leaving the lettuce for T while I’m away this week, because the man loves salad; I’m going to blanch and freeze the chard to use later. I featured the turnips in last week’s recipe, testing out our new stove by roasting turnip wedges with parmesan a la Martha. We had that with grilled swordfish in Mama D’s special marinade. Positive reviews all around (except for Cookie who got no fish). No pictures because … the turnips got pretty “crisped” and were not very photogenic.

And as for the celtuce? I’ll have to get back to you. We’re still working on that one!

Summertime

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – I don’t know what genius landed in this benighted swamp and said, “Sure, let’s build a city here,” but I would like to have words with them. Strong, strong words.

Despite the fairly miserable weather, we are managing to survive. I’m hoping I’ve talked our landlord into putting a ceiling fan in the living room, and our tiny and ancient stove has been replaced with a tiny but new stove. Hoorah!

T and I appear to have started quite the 2015 wedding trend. After years of being confused by people inundated with wedding invitations, I’m now afraid to open our mailbox, and not just because our mail person jams things into the box all higgledy-piggledy. After my honeymoon, ten year college reunion, (pictures at the links) and then four weddings in about six weeks this fall, I may need a vacation to recuperate from all the travel.

Our CSA from One Straw Farm has started, and I’m enjoying it so far. The weather is so hot that giant heads of lettuce for salads are greatly appreciated, and the strawberries were amaaaaaazing.

A few other pictures from some of our recent exploits:

Baby angora at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
Baby angora at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
31 and finally experimenting with my hair color
31 and finally experimenting with my hair color
Annual spring tulip-palooza at Sherwood Garden
Annual spring tulip-palooza at Sherwood Garden

Needs Hashtag

As you may have heard on the news or basically anywhere, things in Baltimore are a bit intense at the moment. We are fine and so is our area, for the most part, but of course it’s been a stressful and upsetting few weeks. I’m not much one for writing about politics, but I was relieved by today’s announcement and hopeful that some semblance of justice will be served. I’m usually the first person on the bandwagon to criticize Baltimore because I am a semi-professional cynic, but I’ve found the recent news coverage enraging. In a city facing so many challenges, where so many people suffer from neglect and mistreatment, much of the news coverage from outside organizations has been racially-slanted fearmongering. Baltimore may be a pretty segregated city struggling to find its feet after decades of deindustrialization and white flight, but that’s far from all it is. Most of the people I’ve met here are friendly and among the most civically involved of places I’ve lived, people love dogs and the baseball fans are pretty dedicated, and there’s two free art museums. As with any city, there are many Baltimores — so keep that in mind when you turn on CNN.

Also, totally ignore Don Lemon. Most of what he says is almost guaranteed to be the opposite of what’s really going on.

Indulgence

I’m sorry my first post for a while will be a bit navel-gaze-y, but I’m luckily in thrall to my wedding photographs at the moment, and am so happy our photographer captured the happy moments (and not so much the stressful ones) of the day. Married life is treating us well, so far, and I think we’re just starting to reach our pre-wedding equilibrium. Or at least, we’re caught up on laundry.

You can can check out some photographs here, if you’re so inclined: http://chantallavinephotography.com/liz-tom-a-rainy-maryland-wedding/

Return

I’m back to Baltimore after a pretty lovely trip to Chicago for the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting, where I got to experience 19″ of snow but also lost my wallet. Boo! And I don’t have a ton of flexibility with my time since we’re really back to work this week with several instruction sessions and meetings and whatnot on my calendar. Inconveniences aside, it was really nice to recharge my professional brain, and get to spend a little quality time with my parents as well.

Things are keeping busy on the home front as well. Lots of RSVP cards are showing up in the mailbox, which makes every day exciting (and also challenging, sometimes the mail is really wedged in there). Between a year on the Stonewall Book Award committee and wedding planning, I was recently subject to some commentary from the FedEx guy about how much I order. Maybe a week or so without credit cards will be good?

Of course, as soon as things move off the plate, something else appears. I’ve got work to do planning my upcoming 10-year college reunion, and am planning on adding book vlogging to my resume in the coming weeks. We’re also launching a diversity task force at work that I’ve been asked to chair, and I get to read just for the fun of it again!

Not even a Monday

I had a slice of leftover pizza (and coffee, of course) for breakfast today. It was delicious and I have no regrets.

That’s not the world’s most exciting update, I realize, but it’s what I got!

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