Friday, December 31, 2010


Okay, so I haven't posted in about a week (sorry about that!) and the first thing I write about is exercise.  Good lord.
In high school, my best friends were on the cross-country team, something I never did.  For one thing, at that point running seemed silly, and it also took up a lot of time.  I did things like... well, field hockey.  Or being in the musical instead.  The only sport I really cared about then was sailing - still just about my favourite thing to do (more on that at some later point).  But then around junior or senior year, I guess, I had some pretty serious insomnia and the thing that made the most sense to me was to go running so I would be tired enough to go back to bed.  Hey, I'm not saying it actually made sense.  Just, to my sleep-deprived brain that continued to think in lymphocytes and French homework and history, running would exhaust me and clear my mind enough so that I could go back to bed.  Also, contrary to popular belief, Cambridge isn't actually that dangerous.  You can go running by the river at night and you'll be fine.
By then, my brain didn't really work well unless I went running.  I would get crabby and distracted in class.  Also, my perfectionism kicked in at that point.  I was going to run faster and longer than anyone else.  So I did, and I just kept going, I guess.
This past week, I hadn't gone running once until today.  What a difference a week makes.
Anyways, I hope you have a wonderful new year.  Mike, I wish you many long runs.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It is blizzarding outside...

...And there is jazz playing inside my house.  Basically all of New England was put on a blizzard watch yesterday, and it is still snowing.  Usually we get this kind of snowstorm about once a year, but it came very fast and now we can't open the door.  If you were in Boston visiting for the holidays, your flight has probably been cancelled.  I'm sorry.  Since it's difficult to get outside, I would suggest curling up and reading good books and eating chocolate (that's what I've been doing).
Caleb's best friend came over yesterday with his upright bass and stayed the night, so it's rather nice to be sitting here and listening to "Black Orpheus."  At the same time, I'm starting to go a little crazy.  I am one of those people who goes running every day.  The kind of person who goes a bit crazy if they don't.  For two days, now (three, counting today) I have not been outside.  This is made worse by the fact that for Christmas I was given super-fancy high-tech running gear for cold weather after some family drove me home when I was freezing on the Mass Ave bridge.  And now I can't even use it yet.
But I had a wonderful Christmas!  A Christmas in which I made figgy pudding with saffron and crystallized ginger, a Christmas in which Ursie ran around in circles after receiving a present, a Christmas in which we all slept in a bit but still jumped on my parents at around 9:30.  How was your Christmas?  Are you snowed in?  What are you doing?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's practically here!

Well, not yet, but Christmas is very very close!  I'm super-excited.  Presents to the relatives have been sent off to New Zealand and Vancouver and Tennessee, and we have picked up our goose at Savenor's.  The King's College choir is singing "In The Bleak Midwinter," there is snow in the garden, and the Christmas tree is full of lights.  I'm almost ready.
My brother (you know, the cooking enthusiast) is making our Christmas Eve dinner - a mix of Syrian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Turkish, and French influences (I believe.  It's sometimes hard to know with him.), and I have the ingredients for our figgy pudding.  It's the first time we're trying it, and I'm very excited.  Mine will be made with ginger and saffron and vanilla on top of, you know, figs and whatever else goes in.
Tonight I'm having dinner with Mike's family (and I can give him his present!), and I'll probably be offline for tomorrow and the next day at the very least.
Happy Christmas, everyone!  Enjoy your holiday and your snow (if you have snow) and your carols.  Eat delicious food in front of the fire, wake up at seven and bounce on your parents' bed, and get dressed up.  Sing.  Have fun!  And tell me all about it after.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Picture from here
Right now I'm sitting on my couch while my brother is playing Mozart on the cello, looking outside at the snow lilting downwards.  It snowed (and stuck) for the first time on Sunday night, I think (maybe Monday?).  I love the first snowfall - and every one after that, really.  One of the perks of living in New England (aside from our perfect autumns) is the snow every winter - snow for Christmas, snow that makes people cross-country-ski down the Esplanade, snow that shuts down the city for hours.  But one of the best things about snow is the light.  In winter, at twilight, we get this crazy electrical blue sky, a blue that holds light, and for about seven minutes the snow reflects that light back so that the world seems a little less grey and a little more saturated.   There's a jazz group called Oregon that made a record called "Winter Light," and that gloaming sky is always what I think of when I listen to their music.  That blue light reflecting off the snow.
On the other hand, we have snow here until March.  While it is lovely through most of February, snow in March isn't that great.  And snow (and slippery ice) marks the end of my running outside for the year.  Oh, well.   The crabbiness that comes from a lack of exercise is a small price to pay for those seven minutes at four or four-thirty every day.  It's hard to be irritable when the light turns lovely colours, no?  Also - snow days and snow angels and days spent inside next to the fire - who can argue with that?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Party

Our party was a huge success!  I love having our house full of people.  Everyone ate and talked and at the end we played music in the living room with my father on the guitar and my brother on piano.  It was exhausting and fun, but I have to say that it's nice to finally relax a bit!  On Sunday my whole family basically slept and did the crossword puzzle.... Today I went Christmas shopping with my sister and finished buying all the presents...
What about you guys?  What did you do with your weekends?

Friday, December 17, 2010

A small act of defiance

Last summer my family went to live in Lausanne, Switzerland.  I mean no disrespect to the Swiss here, but I found the country stifling and conformist and very very xenophobic.  While we were there, we received a newspaper with this ad/poster on it:
picture from here
Apparently this is a normal thing in Switzerland - these posters are everywhere, at bus stops, taped to bulletin boards in restaurants, wrapped around telephone poles, and no one stops for a second.  The same newspaper that we received talked about the dangers of "etranger criminale" - what my family quickly deemed "criminal stranger."  
We were criminal strangers for fare evasion on the subway, for when my eleven-year-old sister wrapped a scarf around her head, for laughing and talking too loudly at the beach.  We were criminal strangers for openly condemning the xenophobia of a newspaper circulated by the government that asked "how much longer must we tolerate Islam?"  We were criminal strangers because we don't believe that a country should outlaw mosques.  So today, back home in Boston, I put together my admittedly pathetic and tiny act of defiance.
I made cookies today.  Chocolate-black pepper cookies, and the dough is this wonderfully rich shade of deep deep brown.  Cooked, they almost seem black.  Today I made pan after pan of chocolate cookies shaped like sheep.  Not much, but an awful lot of fun.  Merry Christmas, Switzerland.  Have a cookie.

(see the recipe and such after the jump!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's been a hell of a week

Sorry for not really posting this week - our annual Christmas party is on Saturday and the whole family has been working overtime to get ready for it.  I've made a ton of cookies and ginger bars and tortelli.... here's what I'm pretty sure is the menu, if you'd like to see:
bacon-wrapped water chestnuts
salmon mousse
chive crepes with duck and hoisin sauce
apple-onion tart
lamb-pinenut pizza
tortelli of butternut squash with sage brown butter sauce
smoked ribs and chicken wings
butternut squash quesadillas with chipotle sauce
"dips" - probably means Sultan's Delight, Muhamara, and something with carrots
walnut-date bars
sugar cookies (decorated by my sister and me last night!)
chocolate-black pepper cookies
ginger bars

I think that's everything, but I'm not entirely sure.  I might post some recipes, if anyone is interested...
Also, tonight is the PIH Christmas party, and tomorrow my brother is hosting a benefit concert for Haiti! A long, very full, slightly stressful week, to be sure!

Gift Guide, Part VIII: your father who listens to more music than anyone, who drives a red vanagon, and is pretty much the coolest person around

These are ideas for my father.  My father likes receiving "music we're listening to" and history books, and shirts from REI.  My friends think that he's so very amazing, and so do the rest of us.  He hikes with us and goes for long bike rides, knows basically all the Grateful Dead songs as well as all of Ravel's string quartets, and lights fires in the wood stove for us in the morning.  Daddy, don't look!
A Jason Mraz album, because that's a lot of what I've been listening to recently, $12.99

Palestine, a graphic novel about the conflict in the middle east, $14.89

My father is really, really hard to get presents for, so if any of you have any ideas at all, please please please let me know!  He is my most challenging recipient....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift Guide, Part VII: your darling mother who doesn't really realize how incredible she actually is

These are ideas for my mother.  My incredible doctoring, teaching, writing mother who can somehow do everything without going too crazy, who manages to keep us all grounded, who can say silly things and save people from TB.  Mommy, don't look!
A vintage poster to hang in her office, because she works with TB most of the time, $22

A novel by Per Petterson, $5.60

A travelling bag to take on the plane and still look put-together, $74.95

Do any of you have ideas for parents?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gift Guide, Part VI: your incredible brother who makes Moroccan food and plays the cello late at night

These are ideas for my younger brother (it would be silly to call him little given that he's got almost a foot on me), who speaks Spanish fluently, rides his bike even in the snow, makes delicious muhamara, and plays Chopin heartbreakingly beautifully.  Caleb, don't read this!
A cookbook from one of the best restaurants in the world, $31.50

A gentleman's knife for the kitchen, since my brother is most definitely a gentleman, $79.95

Or leather-and-wool gloves so that his hands won't freeze when he bikes to school, $50

Do any of you have ideas for teenage boys who do everything a million times better than you ever could, who bike and play three instruments and have been reading the Greeks since grade school?  Let me know in the comments, as always.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gift Guide, Part V: your stunning little sister who at eleven knows more than you ever will

These are gift ideas for my quirky little sister, who holds my hand when we're walking down the street and doesn't get embarrassed, who has perfected the art of being both snarly and kind, who sings duets with me and plays the violin with aplomb.  Ursie, don't read this!
Plain Kate, an Ursie book if there ever was one, $12.23

If money were no object, a fairy tale jewelry holder, $128

What do you think?  Do you have any ideas for wildly intelligent, caring, half-grown-up little girls who love books and turtles and Greek myths?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gift Guide, Part IV: the girl who dances around your living room, makes pillows that record your dreams, and didn't get tired of the family even after Africa

These are gift ideas for the woman who started out as a babysitter and ended up being a foster family member, who lives an incredibly glamorous and down-to-earth life, tells us stories, and has the coolest sense of personal style that I know.  Edo, don't read this!
Neat charcoal soap, $12.00

Bronze stars for her bedroom or office, $22.00

Or geometric bone earrings, $10.50

Any ideas for super-cool, super-stylish graduate students?

Gift Guide, Part III: the boy who talked to you all summer via skype, is terrifyingly talented, and makes delicious dumplings

These are gift ideas for Kuzu's older brother, who has stayed over until four in the morning talking, goes to RISD, walks me home at night when he thinks I won't be safe, complements my pavlova, and is one of the more talented cooks I know.  Patrick, don't read this!
The Bike Snob book because he bikes everywhere and might think it funny, $11.53

Pear and Pomegranate tea from Tealuxe, because that's basically what he survives on, 10.99

Or very dark chocolate, the kind he loves, $4.25

Do you guys have any ideas for artists who survive on tea and chocolate, speak French and Japanese and Chinese, barely sleep because of how much work they have, but still have time for you? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gift Guide, Part II: the boy who takes care of you, lets you call at two in the morning, goes to MIT, and listens to just about the same music you do

These are gift ideas for my other best friend, the one who drives me places when I need it, threatens my ex-boyfriends with bodily harm, listens to me cry, lets me hug him (trust me, this is an accomplishment), and can talk to me for hours about the beginning of the universe.  One of my favourite people... Mike, don't read this!
A book on string theory, $13.57

The Midnight Disease, a book on hypergraphia and other cool stuff, $10.20

Or Complications, one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors (I've been obsessing for a while now), $8.40

Do any of you have any suggestions for amazing science-y boys who give amazing presents like the Oxford anthology of poetry?  Let me know!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gift Guide, Part I: your childhood best friend who adores lambs and speaks four languages

These are gift ideas for the girl I grew up with, who introduced me to animation, Edward Gorey, Dr. Who, Orlando Bloom as a crusader, lamejun, and more.  She's pretty incredible, if I do say so myself....  Kuzu, don't read this!
A pretty printed skirt, $128....

Bracelets made from watch springs, $12....

The Epiplectic Bicycle, $8 (or, you know, free if you happen to have a copy)...
Also, a hat in the shape of a sheep, which I couldn't find online but saw in Harvard Square the other day.  Is there anything I'm missing?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reading, or Loving Books

This was part of an assignment for school when I was a junior.  I might post the rest at some point, but I loved these pieces.  Lucille, if you're reading this (I bet you aren't), thank you for assigning this!  Perhaps some of the best writing I've ever done.  

I am a lover of books.  I devour them whole, the taste of plot and paper and ink mingling on my tongue and in my throat.  I crawled into stories as a little girl, wrapped tight around fairytales in footsie pajamas, milk in hand.  I fell in at seven, eight, nine, ten, I hit the ground with scrapes and cuts, I got sick and took my refuge where other people ran and jumped and played.  I wandered in at eleven and twelve, day-dreamingly losing myself in an elsewhere I had no hope of joining, sailing away with Odysseus and finding true love with Elizabeth Bennett.
I read in bed, covered in quilts and lying down, arm aching from holding my book upright.  I read by the kitchen fire, feet almost beneath the woodstove, back pressed against the refrigerator.  I read curled on the couch and sprawled on the floor and sitting tightly on the train.  I read in trees and on the beach and on camping trips.  I read, in short, everywhere.
I read fast.  I finish readings meant for an hour in twenty minutes or less, I read whole novels in one sitting, I lose track of time until what feels like a whole eon inside the book is simply fifteen minutes.  As such, I cannot read aloud - my head is faster than my mouth.  I get annoyed with myself for simply breathing and lose where I am, already a page ahead of where my breath was.
I read everything.  I read James Joyce and Le Petit Prince and Nietzsche in one weekend.  I read the throwaway newspaper on the subway and the Sunday New York Times cover-to-cover.  I read music and words until I'm full - or at least satiated.  I read Victorian novels the most, though, the wind on the heath wuthering in my dreams, the house at Pemberly rising like a pearl from the middle of the Lake Country.  I read them over and over again until I know them by heart and whisper along with the characters.
I lust for books.  I want and want and there's never enough.  I am addicted to books, the words and stories crawling through my veins and rising like smoke from the air I exhale.  There is always a certain amount of pain when I am not reading, a desire to launch myself in, to ease the suffering, to satiate the thirst, to relieve the undeniable want.  So back again I go to those never-ending feasts of words, those entire pages, chapters, novels, those piles of stories ripe and filling and addicting.  I am a lover of books. How can I not be?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A letter to a very dear friend

My darling Bennett,
Today was your chapel.  You spoke so truthfully, so honest and open and raw, so brave that more than once I twisted my hands together, willing myself not to cry.
You are incredible.  You stood at the podium, looking at four hundred people.  I know that you don't like all of them, but you found it within yourself to let them all in.  You found it within yourself to tell the truth that is visceral and aching to all of us sitting there, listening to you.  You stood up there, facing the bleary-eyed people in the bright morning, and you told us who you are.
Yesterday my mother and I were talking about what writing should be, and we decided that the purpose was to shine a light on a cross-section of the human condition.  I sat behind you on the bench, looking at your back, where your ponytail doesn't quite brush your shoulder blades.  You showed us a cross-section of the human condition.  You gave us your realized world, and you left all of us with more understanding of what life is.
I have long regretted not writing you a thank-you in my own chapel, because I realised quite quickly that you are one of the best friends I have.  Hopefully this letter partially makes up for that.
You are brave and brilliant - so brave, and so, so brilliant.  You are the most truthful person I know, the most tolerant, the bravest.  You are the one that I call when I am cold or angry or unstrung.  You are the one that I can always talk to about anything because even when we argue we come out alright.  I don't see enough of you anymore, and I miss you.  Stay brave and brilliant and I will remember the night when my tears seeped onto your shoulder and you didn't push me away.