Saturday, November 17, 2012

Well...I have nothing to say for myself. I totally crashed and burned on NaBloPoMo.

So...shall we move on? :D? :D?

My apologies to anyone who stuck with me through the first few days!

autumn in everything

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Today's post is another tag! I have a few more thoughtful posts queued up (as I keep promising, I know), but tonight this is a nice break from reading novels for class and writing essays on the phallus. Oh, how I wish I were kidding. Anyway, I hope you are finding this random updates interesting, rather than too Myspace-y. In honor of my favorite season, here's a 10 Fall Questions tag!


1. Favorite Fall lip product?

 Any berry or red lipstick. This lip butter from Revlon, in Berry Smoothie, is basically the perfect fall, berry pink color (and it's moisturizing!).

2. Favorite Fall Nail Polish?

 I have too many! Gunmetal grey, army green, inky colors, reds, purples. If I had to pick, it would be a class dark, dark purple--OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark. Plus I kind of love the name, since this was from the Chicago collection.

3. Favorite Starbucks Fall Drink? Okay, I confess, I used to be one of those crazed Pumpkin Spice Latte fangirls. But now, I just don't see what all the fuss is about. Somehow it's not as delicious as it used to be. But the random times I do go to Starbucks, I end up getting one of two things: a coffee frappuccino sans whipped cream, or a chai tea latte, iced or hot depending on my mood. This time of year I find myself ordering them hot more often.

4. Favorite Fall Candle?

 Oh boy. Don't get me started on candles. I'm generally obsessed with burning candles year round, and like to be seasonal with the scents. And candle season must boom during the fall and winter, because that seems to be the time of year people want to add cozy ambience to their houses and smell all those scents of apple, cinnammon, spice, and pumpkin. My long time favorite has been the Leaves candle you can buy at Bath and Body Works, but I also really like the cheap soy candle from Target in Cinnamon Cider. They both smell perfectly of fall. Do yourself a favor and smell these, if you're ever in either store.

5. Favorite Fall Scarf or accessory. I've been living in a leopard scarf I bought from BP Nordstrom (judge me) about a month ago, as well as an army green Moto Jacket from Topshop--which, sadly, it is now too cold to wear on its own.

6. Haunted house, haunted hay ride, or haunted corn maze?

 I'm going to have to say Haunted House and non-Haunted Hay Ride, because what the hell is a Haunted Hay Ride!? Haunted Corn Maze sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm kind of surprised I didn't go on one now that I'm up in the Midwest, but I guess it's okay that I avoided what's in the picture above. Because ever since I saw Children of the Corn, that's all I'm convinced is out in the cornfields of this part of America. You know, to help you out if you get lost in a corn maze. Which would totally happen to me. And then I would be murdered. Also Jeepers Creepers is out there, guys. 

7. Favorite Halloween movie? C'mon, who doesn't love Hocus Pocus? Classic. Also, I think this is technically a Christmas movie, but it's wonderful too. I also watch a lot of horror movies around Halloween time, just because I like a good scare. I'm weird, yeah.

8. Favorite candy to eat on Halloween?

 Um, any? I always loved Snickers, Skittles, and super sugary Bubble Yum. I'm a big fan of caramel apples this time of year, too.

9. What are you dressing up as for Halloween?!

 I was the Cowboy from the Village People this year. It didn't feel much like dressing up, being from Texas and having gone to Farm College and all, but I did borrow some real-live horse-riding chaps from a friend. Which was awesome. Plus, I was really warm all night. I wanted to be something super cute and fun, like everyone does, but I kind of ran out of time and we just went with the YMCA theme. It was fun!!

10. What is your Favorite thing about Fall? It's hard to pick because I love everything about this season, from the weather to the food to the family to the clothes and on and on. But, just to counteract some of the girliness, I'll pick a big favorite--college football season! Seriously, such an exciting year for the Aggies. Gig em.

i made something delicious: butternut squash & apple soup

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I'm still getting over October, November. But all this means is we are on a locomotive into Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holiday season. And that means COOKING DELICIOUS THINGS.

Fall is by far my favorite season, and Chicago has not let me down so far (though I'm pretty sure it's about to--time for a 'real' winter!). The trees have been beautiful, the weather perfectly crisp, and lots of yummy things are in season. This is the time of year for sweatpants, candles, sweaters, scarves, boots, baking, cooking--basically, it's nesting season. And boy do I love me some nesting.

Now that fall fruits and vegetables are in season, a trip to the grocery store is nerdly-exciting because of all the potential delicious dishes. Say that five times fast. Last night I was feeling poorly and decided to call it a night in, and since I always want to make soup from scratch and bake pumpkin-y things, I decided to try out one of my favorite online chef's recipes.

This is the video, if you are interested. I came across Bruno Albouze on a search for a demonstration of the best way to cook eggs over easy (which was all I pretty much ate for the month of September, strangely enough). I was hooked by his bizarre, yet incredibly awesome accent (I may have rewatched the above video just to hear him say "butternut" a few more times) and fun approach to cooking. He just seems really nice and endearing, and I hope he gets more well known. But moving on.

This recipe for Butternut Squash and Apple soup from scratch came up in my subscriptions, so I gave it a try. I LOVE butternut squash, yet have never tried working with it myself, and as mentioned before, this season just makes me want to make batches and batches of soup like I'm looking after Oliver Twist. The ingredients and spices involved sounded scrumptious, so here is my take on the step-by-step recipe from above.

Here are some things you'll need.

You'll need a nice butternut squash. I went crazy at Whole Foods with the produce, but it's just too good! Oh, and a nice knife is probably more important for this step. Chop it up in quarters, and gut your squash as well. That sounds vaguely inappropriate.

Do not chop your thumb into quarters, like I tried to do. Make sure you put on a bandage if you do nick yourself!

Chop into chunks (again, not your fingers).

Peel, core, and chop up two sweet apples--I used Gala. Look like a crazy person.

Scrub and chop two medium carrots as well. Impersonate a deranged Bugs Bunny. No, I am not cooking in the nude.

These are your choppins. A smidge of advice, a large, good, solid cutting board makes all this a lot easier.

Melt butter and olive oil in a large stock pot.

Make sure, for the most part, you're working over medium heat. Oh, and can I just say, I LOVE gas ranges. And forgive my creepy stock pot reflection.

Chop up a medium yellow onion, and please do a better job than I do. I got the pieces of smaller, but I swear with onions, they defy the notion of "practice makes perfect". I swear I've chopped a million onions and they always look like a cat tried to cut them up with a blunt knife. Also they usually make me cry because even if I cut them the 'right' way, it doesn't matter. Onion rage over.

Cook onions in oil and butter for ten minutes, then add in diced garlic and cook a few more minutes. Can I just say, garlic is SO good. I love garlic so much.

In those ten minutes, I peeled and washed potatoes for mashed potatoes. Nom.

 Now that your onion/garlic is nice and good, add in all your chops, and then your spices as well. Don't forget salt and a generous amount of pepper.

 The recipe calls for "curry spice, turmeric and cardamom--plus an optional pinch of saffron", but this Curry Powder (and I'm assuming all curry powders/spices) contains turmeric and cardamom already. So, I just used this--I'm not sure if I read the instructions wrong or what. Also saffron is always stinking expensive, so yeah.

 Mom's mashed potato method. Wash them good, then cover with water and boil, and cook until done. Works every time.

 Cover your choppins' with water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 40 minutes.

I found that it took about the same amount of time for the potatoes to get soft and 40 minutes of simmering. I fixed the potatoes right up until the soup was ready, so it worked out perfectly.

 Other tips for a cozy, lazy Friday night in. Super comfy, soft sweatpants, "boyfriend" style so they have a giant crotch area and are basically fat pants. Fluffy pink boot slippers.

 Cinnamon candle in a creepy fox-fall leave holder.

 A good movie. My roommate and I ended up having an impromptu couch marathon with this one, then Bridesmaids. Not a bad Friday if you ask me!

Drain your potatoes when ready, still letting the soup kick away.

 Mashed, adding in butter, milk, salt and pepper. Done!

Should be looking mighty tasty by now! Make sure to keep tasting, and adding salt and pepper as you see fit.

 Final addition: apple juice! Recipe calls for a cup and a quarter, I believe, but add as much to get your desired consistency. For the record I feel like the amount was a bit too much--the soup wasn't as thick as I would've liked.

Finally, blend with one of them fancy soup blender things. Feels very official, don't cha know. I may have overblended, because my soup ended up more watery than thick, but this also could've been too much water and/or apple juice. After you've blended, make sure to strain.

And there you have it! I served with toasted sourdough bread and mashed potatoes. Yummmmm!

Optional garnishes: dollop of sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds (I used my roommate's from pumpkin carving!), and a dash of cinnamon. End result--something hearty, simple, delicious, and very healthy and fall-appropriate. It makes enough to freeze a good batch, as well. Enjoy!

Screenshot of Bruno's recipe.

obscure questions and screaming deadlines

Friday, November 02, 2012

Uh oh, look who's squeaking in under a tight deadline...precisely a quarter till November 3, and here is my very short day 2 post of NaBloPoMo!

I promise my content is being thought of and worked on--in fact, I had a nice little blog session mapped out for tonight but it turned into a movie marathon on the couch with my roommate. I had a lot of photos ready and everything but, well, you know. 

So, a la Myspace circa 2005, here's a short, sweet survey I found of "Obscure Questions". Whatever, I'm trying to not crash and burn at NaBloPoMo on only the second day. This counts dang it!

  • 1: What eye color do you find sexiest? Brown eyes have a 'boring' reputation, but I find they are quite sexy on (in?) a guy. That, and green. But there really aren't a lot of options. And I am possibly biased having brown eyes myself.
  • 2: White, milk, or dark chocolate mocha? Dark chocolate completely. The darker and more bitter, the better.
  • 3: If you could get a Sharpie tattoo on your back, what would it be? A panther. And then I would die of Sharpie poisoning--if this is such a thing.
  • 4: Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it? Small. I could talk about this for a while, but the short answer: yes, very much. I was glad to be safe, to always have friends, to know pratically everyone and be known by everyone, all the memories, the strength of community, and all the time I was nurtured there and was able to grow up, move away, and see the world outside of that small town, and both appreciate/understand/respect/learn from everything it meant to me.
  • 5: Your favorite adult as a child? (and not your parents, if they were your favorite) One of my aunts/uncles
  • 6: What kind of smoothie sounds really good right now? Chocolate malt shake. Which is totally not a smoothie.
  • 7: Most embarrassing moment from your elementary school years? I think I wet my pants in kindergarten, in the computer lab. Why were we in the computer lab?
  • 8: Most embarrassing moment from your middle school years? I wore a back brace for a year.
  • 9: Most embarrassing moment from your high school years? Boy dramas and emo music.
  • 10: Pirates or ninjas? Why? Ninjas. Because I'm half Asian? No, pirates have scurvy and drinking problems. Ninjas are silent and deadly, like the worst kind of farts.
  • 11: Have you ever climbed a tree more than twenty feet off the ground? No.
  • 12: Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing set? Yes and yes. Still have a swingset in the backyard.
  • 13: If you could have any pet in the world, illegal or not, what would you get? Honestly...a dog and a cat? A CATDOG. No, just a cat and a dog. I'm not crazy. I don't want a white tiger as a pet.
  • 14: What's your most favorite part of your body? I kind of like the whole package, which sounds super conceited. But I'll take the bait. Also this is way too personal, and hopefully anyone I'm related to is skimming over this question, but I would have to say my small boobs. Which is, I know, a weird answer, but I really like them. Suck it, societal beauty standards in America!!
  • 15: What's your most favorite part of your personality? I'm genuinely concerned about being a better person to and for people, particularly the ones I love. If you meet me, I will care the shit out of you. :D
  • 16: Madonna or Lady Gaga? Neither? Both? Who cares? Gaga. Madonna is kind of a thief, right? 
  • 17: Have you ever watched the Superbowl all the way through? Of course! Probably every one since around the beginning of high school, when I actually became interested in football.
  • 18: Have you ever watched any major sporting event drunk? Ha, are you kidding? I went to a huge public state school for college. The sporting events I was drunk at probably outweighs the sporting events I was not drunk at. Boom, answered.
  • 19: What's the most delicious food you've ever eaten in your life? This is like an impossible question. Something my Mom made, for sure. Or, Southern cooking from my aunts.
  • 20: Margarine or butter? Which did you grow up with? Butter, butter.
  • 21: Whole, skim, 1%, or 2% milk? (Did you know they make 1 1/2% milk?) I like skim, and whole on occasion (and in baking).
  • 22: Which continents have you been on? North America, Europe.
  • 23: Do you get motion sickness? Any horror stories? Thankfully, no.
  • 24: Backpacks or satchels? Satchels?
  • 25: Would you wear a rainbow jacket? A neon yellow sweater? Checkered pants? No, yes, no.
  • 26: What was your favorite cartoon growing up? Sailor Moon. It was a lifestyle, people.
  • 27: If you had to have a cow or a pig, which would you take? Why? Cow, for sure. Milk? And baby cows, possibly? Who wouldn't want that?
  • 28: If you had to look at one city skyline for the rest of your life, which would it be? CHICAGO!! Or London? Does London have a skyline? I'm going to say Parliament and Big Ben, then.
  • 29: Longest plane ride you've ever been on? 10 hour plane ride to London, from Houston.
  • 30: The latest you've ever slept? Probably like 7PM after a night of drinking, or when I was younger, after staying up all night at friends' houses. But then I don't think I even slept that late...
  • 31: Would you buy a sweater covered in kitten pictures? Would you wear it if someone gave it you for free? No, and no. The whole ironic/hipster/lololo I'm so funny in my ugly sweater has kind of been beaten into the ground.
  • 32: Do you pick at scabs? Yeah. I collect them in jars to give to my future boyfriends.
  • 33: Favorite kind of bean? Kidney? Black? Pinto? I love black beans, and soy beans, and refried beans. And red beans.
  • 34: How far can you throw a baseball? About as far as I can throw a tomato. Because they are the same size and shape.
  • 35: If you had to move to another country, where would you move? South Korea in a heartbeat.
  • 36: Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? Vietnamese? Korean? Nepalese? How was it? Yes, yes, yes, no. Delicious, delicious, super delicious, I want to try.
  • 37: Small, liberal arts school or public university? Why? Public university! More affordable, great quality instructors and more variety, more exposure to different peoples/cultures/ideologies/etc., better sports, alumni network.
  • 38: A relationship with love or one with sex? Love.
  • 39: Do you eat enough vegetables? I like to think so, yes. I do the 4 a day rule (4 veggies, 3 fruits). 
  • 40: Do you like horror movies? How about thrillers? I really do, despite how scared during and after I am. 
  • 41: Would you scratch a crotch itch in public? Gross, no? There are more complicated actions involved
  • 42: Do you swear in front of your parents? Not really.
  • 43: Coolest thing you've ever been for Halloween? A little ghost.
  • 44: If you could change your natural hair color, would you? To what? God, I'm boring. I wouldn't change it.
  • 45: Do you want to get married? Have kids? Yes and yes. When the time is right.
  • 46: Do you use a reusable water bottle? If not, you should. Absolutely I do! I use those Camelbak bite valve ones which are also BPA free, which is apparently something important.
  • 47: City or nature person? Nature, even though I am currently one of them city folk.
  • 48: Have you ever used something other than "makeup" as makeup? (Like paint? Markers?) I don't think so...I do use lipstick as blush quite often though. Does that count?
  • 49: Can you walk well in high heels? Even if you're a guy? Yes. I've run quite a few times in heels and not snapped my ankle/died, so I think I'm doing pretty good.
  • 50: Post 5 awesome things about yourself. BRAG AWAY! Badass cook. Funny. Smart. Love to laugh. Big heart.

happy NaBloPoMo!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hi all. 

So November seems to be a pretty ambitious month for a lot of people. It probably has something to do with everyone panicking in some weird way about the end of the year. I mean, No Shave November? All that means is I see way too many patchy beards and dirty 'staches, and I already see enough hipster facial hair out in Bucktown.

Seen on a daily basis at any given moment west of Damen.

Actually, I can totally imagine all guys my age waking up and looking in the mirror near the end of October and thinking, Oh God, it's almost December!? I have to see how molest-y my mustache actually looks! I mean, girls basically do No Shave November like, all winter. Shorts season is about two seconds in Chicago, and besides, no one's seeing these legs but me. Basically I will have fur by the time April rolls around, you can bet on it.

Oh, and Election Day is this month--I've done an absentee ballot again this year, and wept silently on the inside as usual for a good few of the Texas candidates. I mean, we have this guy, for crying out loud.

It's so dumb, I can't even get into it and I especially can't properly segue into my next, and final point. November is a big one for a lot of writers as it is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. 

The goal is in the name--in one month, people try (and often succeed--a bestseller born of NaNoWriMo was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen) to write an entire novel, submititng a certain word count every day of November. The finished product is 50K words minimum, or the typical length of a standard novel. There are a lot of variations on it, with various methods of accountability and reward, but if anything it's more of a community of writers' support. 

I've considered doing it before, but opted out this year because I'm basically doing NaNoWriMo next semester, when the only class I'll be taking is my program's Novel Writing seminar. It's the first of its kind and structured after NaNoWriMo (our professor even referenced it in the syllabus), and when the class went up for registration it was like the newest version of crack and my peers and I were all major junkies. I think we're just a bunch of masochists.

I'll be submitting 20 pages a week for 10 weeks and I'm not sure yet what I'm going to be writing an entire novel about quite yet--I mean, I do know, but I haven't decided yet--so there's no way I'll be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Writing one novel in 10 weeks is crazy, but two within a three month span? Count me out--to say the least! However, I am doing a spinoff started by BlogHer--NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo is even simpler. National Blog Post Month means posting on your blog every single day of November, which I think will be a fun challenge as I tend to be pretty lax on here. The issue isn't anything uncommon--I have a lot of ideas, I take a long time to write anything, I am really busy, and so on. But I'm challenging myself and holding myself accountable, so if you are interested, stick along with me!

They do allow for some cheats, such as posting only photos, or tags, or blogg-y things like that. But I'm going to try and put out thoughtful, well-written content to the best of my ability. Hooray!

If anyone else out there is doing this, or thinks it would be fun, let me know! See you on day 2.

I bear a charmed life

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

YIKES! So it's been quite a while, eh? If this means anything, I have been thinking about my blog a lot. But, it doesn't mean anything, because I haven't been writing, have I? So. I wanted to quickly update any of you still with me--before my little blog drops off the face of the Earth. Which I'm trying not to let happen. I have some scheduled posts/ideas coming up, but I'll keep my new plan to myself so no one can know if I don't follow through. :D

Anyway, my life has become pretty stellar and I haven't blogged about any of the new, exciting changes that have come my way.

First, I'm happy to report that I am expecting. Expecting a good night's sleep, that is! Ha. Ha. Ha (knee sleep). Seriously kidding--although I'm sure the majority of you would hardly believe that I'm pregnant. I'm pretty sure I tried to trick my parents with that one April Fools' and they were just like, "Uh huhh, suuure, okay Jenny," and then burst into laughter and hung up on me. Welcome to my life.

So, why am I expecting such good sleep? Let's talk about this new leaf I've turned over. Some details to catch you up, about things that have happened and are continuing to happen:

-I'm kicking ass and taking names at graduate school, working very hard to not let the reverse happen. That line is very thin, y'all. I got a partial-tuition scholarship for next quarter because of my GPR, which is in no small part due to my daily offerings to the Graduate School Gods (one less hour of regular sleep, eye bags, and caffeine dependency. Seriously occult, right?).

-Also slightly related to school: I am writing and reading even more than ever, and not just superficially. These days I spend a lot of mental energy on deconstructing a lot of literature, talking about it in a meaningful way, and then working through my own mind to write the narratives that matter most to me and craft my words to the best of my ability. In a way, all these books (even more than usual!) allow me to spend time in the minds of brilliant people who had such great ideas--and could articulate them impossibly, terrifically.

-A professor I really respect made a comment about my writing, and let me know that I could actually do this professionally. Um. Excuse me, while I go vomit in a basket. I feel so weird about it, and not in a negative way at all--like, I've gone along this whole time, with all these stories, and all these scraps and notebooks filled with my bizarre ideas and characters, and sometimes I put them together in a coherent way, and yeah the end dream is being a writer, but wait. Someone who doesn't love me and writes books said I could seriously do it, too? I need to lie down.
-It's been set in stone that I will continue at my YCA internship through next year, graduating from "intern" to "assistant"--and getting a bit of money, too. I've started seeing, in small part, the real results (read: money) of my work. I enjoy it more and more each time, and am learning so much.

-I GOT ANOTHER INTERNSHIP. Am I crazy? Probably. But no--hear me out. In addition to my other responsibilities, I now intern at Booklist Magazine, a literary review. People, this is actual, real world experience in the freaking publishing industry. I know, it's not Wall Street or Vogue or some other exciting thing (it's BOOKS for crying out loud), but I am over the moon because I honestly did not expect to get this. That's saying something, because I am usually overconfident in my professional abilities and am sadly identical to this approach to interviews:

So, in an even greater capacity than before, I get to be in the company of older, wiser people who love what they are doing for a living, and even more than that, are doing what I would love to do for a living. I have another supercool, supernice boss and I get to work with thousands of books. Books on books on books. Oh, and you know, just really awesome editors and paid writers and stuff. This week I'm taking a stab at writing a book review. Wish me luck!

(Another thing: one of my favorite Young Adult authors once had this same exact position I am in. If you have a few minutes, take a look at one of his videos because he's talking about exactly what I'm doing. Plus, it's a thoughtful, inspirational video on growing up.)

To be honest, this most recent development has flabbergasted me. I find it hard to talk about all this in a non-braggy way, because I don't know how to articulate all my emotions: that I feel like I've worked really hard, and so many wonderful things/blessings/dreams have happened to me just in this year, but I don't want to believe the correlation, but I do, but mostly I am taken away with the many blessings that have come my way (I should mention I'm not religious).

The state I am in is a big change from when I first moved out here, when I was very stressed, lonely, and unhappy. This is the part where you come up for air. I can look back just a few months and see where I kept my head down, allowed myself a broken moment or two, and then kept going. When you're in it, it's hard to understand that it's temporary. But now I can't help but pay respect to the low, to the not-so-sunny points in your life, because it makes you strong, it makes you value patience and work. And it makes the sweet parts that much sweeter.

But, you still have to keep your head down. Something that has always guided me, that has always kept me an optimist--happiness is a choice, and a happy life doesn't mean a life of ease. You have to work, and work hard. I do bear this charmed life, but I'm not settling here. I have to keep going.

Still, a small victory dance for now: because it is so good to wake up at the crack of dawn, and be genuinely excited about every day. It is so good to be busy, and responsible, and have purpose and direction. It is so good to come home late at night, finally, and see the coffee cup and torn sugar packets on the counter, and be struck by the size of my day, to feel the hours I have spent alive and think of the spaces I have occupied and the people I have spoken with and everything else contained in the moments since the coffee cup. It is so good to fall into bed, then sleep, ready and eager to do it all again at the crack of dawn.

fashion sandwich

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A colleague of mine--

An aside: my program's admin and faculty insist on referring to us graduate students as "colleagues", whether in email or in classes/events. This is one of the slightly more pretentious things about graduate school, and graduate school is pretentious enough as is. But every time I hear "colleague", I feel compelled to straighten up my spine, surreptitiously stick out my pinkie finger (depending on how I am holding my Tom Collins this evening), and imagine myself screwing in my monocle. I then snootily lean over to my "colleague", careful not to lower my nose too much, and, in my best Brahmin accent, say something like, "Mmm, yes, have you not read Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften in its entirety? In the native tongue? Hmm, whatever are you doing with your time, my good man?" 

Okay, so, a peer of mine recently paid me a nice compliment, that I always look sophisticated and presentable around campus, class, and functions. It was unexpected and gentle enough, and of course very kind of her, and my response was the default setting of How A Lady Should Take Compliments.

Oh, you! You are too sweet. 

But really, on the inside, it was more like this.

Wait, exactly how awesome did you say I was? Continue.

For the next five days.

If people knew how much preening a compliment sets into motion, or the extent of how deluded I am into suddenly believing I am Beyonce when someone flatters me in any way, then I have a feeling people would never be sweet to me again. Seriously, whole populations would shake their heads in disgust if given a peek into my mental status in the wake of something as harmless as, "Oh, you look cute today!". 

What I see in the mirror for the next month.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating, but I thought I would backwardly acknowledge this sometime-tendency of mine because I find that in the world of blogging, and especially fashion/beauty blogging--(er, not that this is a fashion blog. But this post is kind of fashion-bloggy. My apologies if that doesn't blow your skirt up)

--in the world of blogging, no one ever outright acknowledges how vain it is to recommend clothing, or do a tutorial on a bombin' smokey eye, or dole out advice in general. Like, if Emily Sheffield ever gave me personal fashion advice, I would weep silently in gratitude. But if I had a clone of myself, and she told me my flats didn't look good with the cut of my jeans, then I would just roundhouse myself in the throat. That was a weird sentence to type.

I love fashion, and doing my hair and makeup, and spending chunks of my life lusting away on The Sartorialist, and buying shoes that I don't need, and etcetera. But I'm no Taylor Tomasi Hill, struttin' around NYC in the latest Proenza. I'm not the only one whose standard Friday night outfit is some combination of cute Topshop top, tight skirt, and comfortable-ish heels. My 'advice' isn't anything new, either. So if I had to label my "style", it would probably be, "Slightly Fashionable Grad Student On the Go Who Quit Shopping at Forever 21 and Found a Decent Taylor". Here's how to dress like one.

(Like a compliment sandwich, we are going to look at my fashion choices in this pattern: Cute, Meh, Cute)

This is a no-brainer. Dark wash skinny jeans are like the iceberg lettuce of a modern girl's wardrobe, they are the perfect base and just so versatile in building an outfit. I have a theory that you could be wearing mismatching Crocs, a ripped up plastic bag for a top, and have your hair on fire, but if you're wearing dark wash skinny jeans, BAM--you look put together. I bet a sassy hairdresser will even peek out their door as you walk by, and gasp, "Très chic, she is soo Postcolonial GrungeBaby right now!" I live in a pair from J Crew, but you can find a great pair most places.

Fine. I tried. But, most days, at some point, I am subtly picking crumbs out of my hair. It comes with the neurotic, sleep-deprived territory, where my "colleagues" and I slouch into class in our stained undergrad sweatshirts and holey wind pants, clutching steaming mugs of souped up caffeine cocktails and idly scratching at our bums because we stopped caring somewhere between thesis proposal and peer review. Sometimes my shoes must match that vibe. Yes, I hate Uggs on principle, and swore I would never buy any, but I also think that sometimes if you're going to go all out, you really have to go all out. Hence, these real ugly Ugg slippers. But, how the angels sing when these cling upon your feet. These are the best for tromping around dusty hardwood floors, but I can't lie. I run out to class or peer-review in these a lot. I welcome your judgment.

Skirts! I seem to have reached a point in my adult life where I am back to loving skirts and dresses more than pants, just like in the second-grade days of wearing skirts and dresses that my Mom hand sewed for me. If dark wash skinny jeans are the iceberg lettuce of grad student fashion, then consider skirts the plate of grad student fashion...umm, okay, moving on. This is also a plus for short ladies. I love skirts--particularly high-waisted, and above-the-knee, sometimes A-line depending on the length. They're another way to look put-together in no time, can transition from class to the bar, and look cute with flats or heels. Plus they're comfortable and can double as fat-pants if you are so inclined. I have been wearing the feather-print one above from Ann Taylor Loft like, all the time. Sometimes to bed. Only jokes.

Picture the scene. It's a chilly, autumnal night on the streets of Lincoln Park, the L rattling away in the background like a ghost train. The tree-lined sidewalks are damp and illuminated by hazy yellow street lamps, families cozy and warm inside their brownstones, and out of the darkness appears...some ghastly-looking madwoman with a scarf flowing around her head and upper-body, billowing across your path like the ghoul that escaped from your Victorian home's attic. Yeah, that was me last week on the way to the bar after class, caught in a cold mist without an umbrella. Did my flimsy, pathetic scarf shield me from the wet and wind? No. Did my crazy, billowing scarf wrapped around my face like I had mumps earn me some fearful glances from passersby? You bet. Hence, a hoodie. Oh, how I wished I had a hoodie. Plus, can you ever have too many pockets?

Welcome to my current obsession. I wear flats probably every day, because they work so well for going from my internship to class and everything grad-student-y in between. My favorite pair of the moment aren't these Chanel ones (pssh I wish! Show me a graduate student in Chanel flats and I'll show you...the lint in my pocket as I beg you for booze money from underneath my cardboard sign) but knockoff two-tones from Zara, which are really similar. I used to wear some variation of flip-flops like, religiously, back in high school and part of college, until I realized how hideous/lazy/ew they generally look with anything except swimwear. Flats are chic. Flats are good. Flats are the way of the grown-up girl world.

And, finally, we have the turband. Okay, I know that this is a total trend and not something classic, but I feel like if you want to rock a turband, hey, you rock a turband girl. This one is from Nasty Gal. Side note, if you haven't checked out Nasty Gal, you totally should. Seriously, don't let the gross name deter you. I kind of love their clothes, the only downside being that you run the risk of people assuming you have riding crops and neon, glow-in-the-dark-circa-Nelly-2000 thongs in your shopping bag. Anyway. If the turband isn't up your alley, let's just call it "any cute hair accessory that makes you look vaguely fashionable while disguising your greasy ass roots because you can't even remember the last time you combed your hair let alone bathed". And, boom, you're a well-dressed lady.

More sandwiches (and proper blog posts) to come, friends!

the importance of having good jams

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Note: I wrote this sometime last week during finals.

So I'm in the awful throes of the actual thesis paper from hell which I had no other choice but to pick over spending the evening with a cute boy, caught up in the worst-timed writers' block possible, and in the midst of stress-induced weeping and occasional moments of self-loathing, I have called an audible and am going to now blog about something random and slightly frivolous. Apologies in advance, my brain hurts and I ate a GoGurt for dinner. Let me also apologize to future Jenny for that one.

I'm sure everyone can think of at least one weirdo who they've met in their lives, who claims they "don't really listen to music". I can conjure up my weirdo easily. This person also liked cats a lot (like, even beyond the level of I Trained My Cat To Use The Toilet And Also We Take Walks In The Cat Stroller) and wasn't fond of showering, which are possible correlations. Not liking music is like, not liking baby otters. It's really, really, really weird to not like baby otters, and it's really, really, really weird to not like music.

I'm slightly biased in some ways, having been a complete and utter band geek in high school who spent a huge amount of time playing, performing, and thinking about music. But even outside of that, music has always been tied intimately to who I am and how I reconcile myself to the world. It's the same for everyone in some capacity, because anyone can enjoy music. Same way anyone can enjoy baby otters--er, okay, I'm finished with that simile.

I remember listening to Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World" from a boombox on my first day of second grade. In middle school my two best girlfriends and I had Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP memorized from back to front for some insane reason, thanks to our weekly ritual trading on the bus and sneaky CD players under pillows, on school nights after the lights had to be off. 

High school was the age of "I Miss You" by Blink-182, and all their other songs, and a big dose of Dashboard Confessional, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Postal Service, and bad emo bands. The Shins provided the initial spark between me and my first boyfriend. I completely wore out my Jack's Mannequin, Colbie Caillat, and Eli Young Band C.Ds in my car during college, driving around town or back and forth across Texas to see friends and family who were in the beginning phases of being far away. I sang Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs with my friends, danced to Lady Gaga and Girl Talk, and fell asleep to Sufjan Stevens, all other times listening to as much and everything in between.

It would take forever to go into all my favorites, being one of those annoying people who says they "love all music", but here are some of what I've been feeling lately.

So Jealous, by Tegan and Sara.

We'll start with a throwback. I first got into Tegan and Sara toward the end of high school, and this album was on serious, near-religious repeat during my first semester of college. Not that it's some ultra-deep, life-changing music, but more like: energetic, popppy, with super catchy hooks. If you like Grey's Anatomy, I'm pretty sure So Jealous was half of the first season's soundtrack. I've been listening to this walking around the city and on stuffy train/bus rides, just because this album takes me right back to the first few months of being 18 and a little college fish in a big university pond, earphones jammed in as I walked across a green campus to my classes on crisp autumn mornings. You're welcome.

Sample lyrics: 
You say you don't see any part of me/To love in all this mess and I know
You take the good and all the bad that comes with me

Tell me you love me like /You think you want to be loved
Pull on my hand and say/Please let's just make it this way

Stick your heart inside of my chest/Keep it warm here while we rest
Tell me this love hasn't changed me, hasn't changed me at all

I wake up exhausted, it's not morning/It's back to sleep to re-dream me
We're alone and we're happy/But there you are, angry with me

Boxer, by The National

Unlike So Jealous, this one requires patience to get at its loveliness. That may be the wrong word. This is a great album, but I find that's it's great in a different way to every fan of The National. In some interview the lead singer (Matt something...I'm being Internet lazy and not looking it up) said people described his voice in terms of whiskey brands. The deepness of his voice is almost haunting, though I hate to use the cliche, and sometimes dolorous, a word I love to use. The lyrics are perfectly obscure and poetic, but not quite ornate--something more appreciated by literature and art lovers, I'm sure. The most accessible songs are probably "Fake Empire" and "Slow Show". 

Copious amounts of strings, horns, guitars, percussion elements (and a Sufjan Stevens feature on one song, so I'm beyond sold). I've been a big fan of this particular album since it first came out in '07, but have recently re-discovered it since my move into Big Girl World. No surprise, as amid the other heartbreaks of life and getting older, it laments the inevitability of the "unmagnificent lives of adults". This is an album of anxiety yet beauty, resonating elegance, and melancholy sprinkled with a little sweetness and laughter.

Sample lyrics:
Tiptoe through our shiny city/With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice/Bluebirds on our shoulders
We're half-awake in a fake empire

You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
When you pass them at night under the silver, silvery Citibank lights
Arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under

Get inside their clothes/With my green gloves
Watch their videos in their chairs/Get inside their beds
With my green gloves/Get inside their heads
Love their loves

I wanna hurry home to you/Put on a slow, dumb show for you/And crack you up
You know I dreamed about you, for twenty-nine years before I saw you

Days, by Real Estate

Okay, let's stick with the (subtle) melancholia for just another album. This album was in the background for this whole last summer for me. The opener "Easy" tells you everything you need to know about this one. Um, how cheesy was that? Moving on, to: great jangling guitars that like to strum, seamless loops, smooth rhythms, and reverb. Lyrically, Days is wistful, lighter than Boxer but dealing in similar themes of domestic life in modern, middle America. Altogether it's not complex, but it's layered beautifully and makes for real easy listening. See what I did there.

I don't know much else about this band except that I think that they're from New Jersey, and from the way the leader singer sings, I think I would like him to be my shy, sometimes hesitant boyfriend who is also really cool. I would also like to throw a beach party somewhere in Massachusetts and have this going in the background. Overall, this a nice, effortless-yet-effort-full record.

Sample lyrics:
Back when we had it so easy/I would surrender completely
I built a shelter for green beings/In the sun, in the sun

All those wasted miles/All those aimless drives/Through green aisles
Our careless lifestyle/It was not so unwise

It was all out of tune/You're entering this town
Yourself a weeping clown/You play along to songs written for you

Jealous lovers, left behind/Wonder years passed me by
Far away but still on my mind/I think of you from time to time

Whew, all for now. Hopefully you enjoyed this one, hopefully you can take these good jams with you, and hopefully I'll post these from time to time!

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