Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sweet Tea and Grits

I did not eat gumbo or jambalaya or alligator, but I did eat grits and biscuits and sweet tea.

I forget where I heard this so I can’t credit it properly, but I very much agree: “The four most beautiful words in the language are ‘Breakfast served all day.'”

Mmm, grits. Clover Grill, 900 Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde (I am pretty sure you are not legally allowed to travel to New Orleans without going to this place).

Served with a metric ton of powdered sugar.

And speaking of sugar…

Ice cream at Stanley (also in the French Quarter). Peach cobbler flavor and pecan pie flavor. In a homemade waffle cone. That was the before picture…

…this is the after.

Went to Clover once more before I left Tuesday morning. They have the friendliest waiters there. Also, biscuits. Not sweet tea though…had to stop at Cafe Beignet on the way.

Not to be confused with Cafe du Monde, which is several times bigger and several orders of magnitude more crowded.

What I’m reading: The Magician King, Lev Grossman
What I’m listening to: Horses, Patti Smith; Guster on Ice, Guster

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City with NO wireless

Getting online without a smartphone or ipad was tricky down in New Orleans, but I am back! With lots of photos to share. The ALA Annual Conference was a great experience, and I got to meet some excellent librarians and explore the French Quarter a bit.

Compared to Boston, New Orleans has more: cigarette smokers, styrofoam cups, heat and humidity, evident homelessness. It has fewer (none) laws against open containers of alcohol in public, and no good-tasting tap water. It has more fried doughnuts covered in powdered sugar, and more sweet tea (though it isn’t as ubiquitous as I thought it might be). It has the Mississippi River instead of the Charles. It is not famous for its solid internet connections, which partially explains why I did not post at all while I was there.

Due to needing to catch up on massive amounts of homework, I will just leave you with this warning for now:

What I’ve been reading: The Magicians and The Magician King, Lev Grossman; Love is the Higher Law and The Realm of Possibility, David Levithan
What I’ve been listening to: The Suburbs, Arcade Fire; Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie; Achtung Baby, U2

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Procrastination and Pesto

“Why do people procrastinate?” We discussed this question in my Evaluation of Information Services class, to demonstrate how hypotheses are formed. To give a concrete example, I have avoided looking at the weather forecast for New Orleans because I don’t want to know. Unlike my roommate, who is from South Georgia, I wilt in the heat; I consider 75 or 80 about as hot as it ever needs to get, whereas for him, anything under 85 is merely “warm.”

But anyway.

89. 90. 89. 90.

92. 92. 93.

Apparently all those thunderstorms don’t do much in the way of cooling things off.

Okay, that is enough complaining (in advance, no less) about the weather. Did you ever think about making your own pesto? It is surprisingly easy (if you have a food processor) and you can actually taste the difference between fresh and store-bought. Unfortunately for the precision-minded, detail-oriented, scientific types, it’s one of those “to taste” recipes. Here’s what you need:

A couple large handfuls of spinach, de-stemmed
A bunch of basil leaves
Pine nuts (about 1/4 cup)
5 garlic scapes, give or take
1-2 garlic cloves (might not need it if you have more scapes)
Olive oil (1/4 – 1/2 cup)
Salt, pepper, lemon juice

1. Put ingredients in a food processor.
2. Put on the lid. Pulse about 6 1-second pulses (or, you know, until it looks like pesto).
3. Scrape down the sides and blend once more.
4. Consume pesto! Probably not with a spoon…but on bread or toasts with mozzarella and tomatoes, or on pasta, or on homemade pizza or flatbread…possibilities abound.

And now, no more procrastination: time to pack.

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Plastic Distractions

Twelve days – might be the longest gap between posts in this blog’s history. Life has been busy, full of work and school and ultimate frisbee games (and hanging out with the team, which effectively vacuums up what “free time” I have left, in a very pleasant way).

Yesterday was the longest day of the year (daylight-wise), Summer Solstice. Our game started at 6:30 and it was still completely light out – didn’t get fully dark till sometime after 9.

Tomorrow I’m off to New Orleans for the ALA Annual Conference – back on Tuesday after what I suspect will be an extremely long six days. We’ll see what happens when that many librarians converge on a city at once…

What I’ve been reading: Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson; Bossypants, Tina Fey

What I’ve been listening to: Guster on Ice, Live From Portland, Guster; Sink or Swim and The ’59 Sound, Gaslight Anthem; Reconstruction Site, The Weakerthans; Cheer Up! and Why Do They Rock So Hard?, Reel Big Fish; The Moon My Saddle and Exit 263, Chamberlain; Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, Guided By Voices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ann Patchett

Last night I skipped my frisbee game (which got rained out anyway) to go to Porter Square Books to see Ann Patchett read from State of Wonder (which I wrote about back in February). I haven’t been to an author reading in a while, and I haven’t been this excited about an author reading since the last time I saw Audrey Niffenegger (at the B&N in Union Square in NY; before that I saw her at the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago in 2007).

And was it everything I hoped and dreamed? Yes. Yes it was. I got there early, which was good because the place filled up; all the chairs were taken, people were standing on the sides and in the back and sitting on the floor in the children’s section. Ann read the anaconda scene (p. 238-243); she said normally she read from different parts of her books when she went on tour, but she so delighted in the audience’s horrified faces and cringing that she is planning to read this scene over and over. Ann Patchett fans who are also snake-phobes, consider yourself warned.

After she read, she told a story about how the character of Easter came to be, and also about her own research trip to the Amazon. During this trip, a similar incident (a person on a boat plunging his hand into the Amazon River and pulling a 15-foot anaconda into the boat) occurred. Said Ann: “I am not a snake phobe, but, you know, I am a sensible person.”

Then there was Q&A (“Two answers, always better than one”).

She doesn’t believe in acknowledgements, because “Do you read acknowledgements?” (Audience nods.) “They’re embarrassing! Pet names, thank you to the postman for bringing the mail…You know what, nobody needs to know.” Better than acknowledgements, she believes, is inscribing a copy of the book and sending it to the person you would otherwise have acknowledged. “It’s between you and them.”

Someone asked about what kind of research she did. She told us about sending an early draft of The Magician’s Assistant to her friend and fellow author Elizabeth McCracken, and Elizabeth made clear that some research on magic was going to be necessary. “So this is why it’s important to have friends. And do research…[The Magician’s Assistant was] the book that changed my relationship to research.”

Ann is also friends with Eat, Pray, Love and Committed author Elizabeth Gilbert. Just as Ann was starting to write State of Wonder, she and Liz were speaking, and Liz told her the outline of a book she had just set aside…which closely resembled the plot of State of Wonder. Liz did not find this unusual: “Ideas circle the universe looking for someone to land on.” She had put the idea aside, and it had landed on Ann instead.

Interesting fact: “I never read my books again [once they’re published].”

Does she enjoy the process of writing? “I hate to write, I love to have written….It beats anything else I could be doing.”

Inevitably, someone asked about the epilogue of Bel Canto. Ann explained, without giving anything away for those who hadn’t yet read it, and said this: “In the moment of our own death, the person who understands us is the person who is with us.” (For a little more context: the experiences people share in near-death or other extreme situations cannot be explained to others; only the people who were there and shared the experience, and bonded during it, can possibly understand.)

After the reading and the Q&A, she graciously consented to sign books for everyone who had bought or brought them. I asked her to sign two for me, and one for a friend.

Inside Run (for the friend):

Inside State of Wonder:

And finally, inside The Magician’s Assistant, because it’s my favorite…

She drew me a rabbit in a top hat. I know she has probably done this drawing inside hundreds of books before, but you guys…Ann Patchett drew me a bunny.

Ann’s book recommendations: The All of It by Jeannette Haien; The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

What I’m reading: The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin; The Magician’s Assistant (again), Ann Patchett
What I’m listening to: Ocean Eyes, Owl City

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Spring into Summer

Time to play catch-up!

This is Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Maryland. When I was younger and lived in Virginia, this was the halfway point in the drive when we went to visit my grandparents in Harrisburg. It hasn’t changed at all, that I can tell (but it does have a website now).

If you happen to be a fan of jam or preserves, I highly recommend ordering some of their blueberry or strawberry-rhubarb preserves. Mmm.

Welcome to Virginia! State bird: the cardinal. (Superior to the Pennsylvania state bird, which is the ruffed grouse.)

Virginia countryside. Smells like green.

My team for BUDA’s Spring Hat league, after going 5-0 in the tournament (after going 1-6 during the season…).

Interesting neighborhood gardening. (Flower spills: much less harmful than oil spills.)

Still Life With Ducks, I.

Still Life With Ducks, II (it was a slow day).

Later that day, slightly more interesting than ducks: THESE TWO got married! Here they are listening to one of the toasts.

In gardening news, the strawberry plant produced its first berry, and it was DELICIOUS. I am looking forward to a summer full of these. Nom nom nom.

Unique-looking clouds above the school at the end of the street.

Neighborhood chickens. One of the little ones is venturesome; believe it or not, there are at least three more chicks under the mama hen. She’s like Mother Ginger in the Nutcracker!

Yet more ultimate frisbee: seven players on the line at Mixed Easterns. Love Handles (my summer club team) did not break seed (to put it kindly), but we had fun and we’ll be ready to clean up (or at least finish in the first half) by the time the summer club tournament comes around in August.

And that’s about it for now: frisbee, weddings, poultry (wooden, plastic, and real), plants, and sky.

What I’ve been reading: The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Delirium, Lauren Oliver; Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
What I’ve been listening to: Ocean Eyes, Owl City; Tattoo You, Some Girls, Beggars Banquet, and Voodoo Lounge, The Rolling Stones; Torches, Foster the People

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