Monday, August 18, 2014

Mothers and Daughters. Sticks and String.

Mom's picture. All I can take credit for is cutting up all those sticks in the background.

My Mom and I had been really bad at getting along this summer. I guess I should have expected this since it's really the first time I've been home and felt like an adult and am used to acting like one. Mom on the other hand was still used to having children, not adult children. There was yelling. There was arguing. There were tears. There was much complaining behind backs (ok I complained, sorry Mom). However about two weeks ago I was house sitting and found myself missing her, then I'd see her and we would yell. We repeated this a couple of time until we had an almighty full blown yelling and crying match in which we established at neither of us actually like being yelled at, and that we had really different prospectives on some things we hadn't even thought to talk about. After that things have gotten better.
We have this great game were she wants to use me as a knitting model and I try to mess it up

Where do the sticks and string come in? As every single person who has ever met her knows, my Mom loves to knit. It is her relaxation and I think one of the ways she likes to show us love. After listening to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book Cast Off on a whim I started trying to look at knitting in a different way. She talks about knitting as a journey, and one of her characters uses it to find her community so I thought why can knitting be a language as well? So I am trying, for the sake of our relationship, to speak my Mom's language. I still can't say I love knitting, and I doubt I will ever be a capital K knitter, but I do feel like something is different this time than every single other time I've picked up the needles. This time it isn't actually about knitting, neither the process or the product, but about rebuilding my relationship with my Mom as mother and adult daughter rather than mother and girl child. It's a way to reach past our intellectual head banging and realize that we do actually still have a really good emotional connection, but (due to how much I have changed while being away at school and how overworked she is) we just don't know how to tap into it anymore. I don't know if I'll stick with it while I'm in Europe or when I'm back at school, but it's still a nice way to talk with my Mom at home…with no yelling allowed.
Usually my attempts to mess it up ends up with a better picture than se was thinking of. Maybe it's time to reevaluate my strategy.

Just as a matter of interest I am a process knitter disguised as a product knitter. The enjoyment I get out of knitting comes from the act of knitting, but I don't see a point to actually starting the act if the item it produces isn't useful. Because of that I can also do what I did quite recently and knit half of a lace scarf, then rip it all out because it didn't look quite right. I get to enjoy knitting half again as much scarf as I would otherwise have and at the end I'll have a scarf I'm happy to wear.

Also, I came up with a great idea. While I'm abroad I want to buy a skein of yarn (all worsted weight probably) and knit up blocks to patch together into a blanket. Then I can be wrapped in the my travels for the rest of my life. I hope to find country specific patterns too for all the blocks, but I'm not sure if that will be possible.

It's been a hard week

"It's been a hard week." I've found myself saying this over and over again this summer. And while it's always true, it's time to realize that I'm tired of letting it excuse my not getting to things that need to be done. And yes, bad things keep cropping up this summer, but at some point we all need to make a stand for ourselves and say "I'm not accepting any more of this crap." I've reached that point many times recently, but apparently it has taken a while to sink in.

Other life updates:

*I leave for Venice in 3 weeks to attend the architecture biennale before I go to Zagreb to start my study abroad in Croatia. 

* My brother's numbers were better at his last lab's appointment so no dialysis for the moment. They'll be checked again in September and be reevaluate.

* The dogs were in apple heaven, and are now in apple temptation hell. They were eating so many apples that it gave them the runs and they started going in the house. This was deemed unacceptable and there is now a prohibition on apples. To be kind I try to pick up apples at least once a day, but that isn't enough to keep the ground clear so they have to exercise some self control. Poor dears.

* My kitchen is over run by apples (we probably have 20 lbs by now, although how many of them are still good is anyone's guess). Apple will be on the menu for quite some time.

* I'll be blogging about my time abroad as a journalist for Cornell University (link here) and am thinking of starting a travel podcast as well. Since I have an official connection to the university for the blog those posts will likely be well thought out and directed, but I kind of want an outlet for all my raw joy, confusion, embarrassing moments, utter bewilderment, exciting (and hopefully not profane) plane/train/bus/ferry mishaps, and hopefully enchantment with everywhere I go and all the people I meet. 

I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures so far from this summer.

A dog and her pillow

This looks like a more fun day than it was. Both pups were a bit out of control so we left fairly soon.

Hurry up and throw it already!!!

"We're best friends, riiiight? Just say yes."
(no pups were harmed in the taking of these pictures)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Update and Kale and Kielbasa Soup

I'm back!!!!

It has been an incredibly hard semester what with a falling out with a former roommate and best friend, the even more endless winter than usual, my anxiety disorder getting out of control, and dealing with some stuff from my past which I hope to feel strong enough to share with you at some point. That said I just got my grades back and I passed all my classes (yes I was actually worried about that, told you it was a hard semester), and better than that I got  a 3.78 (out of 4.0) GPA. Guess all that Xanax worked after all.

Now I'm home, and it is a well known (and often joked about) fact that I clean like I demon when I first get home. I'm not exactly sure why I do it, but my guess is it's due to post finals stress. My target this time was the kitchen. To my Mom's relief I don't have any before pictures, but here are the after ones for you.

What have I been doing with this beautifully clean kitchen? Cooking of course! I didn't have much time  or motivation to cook when I was at school, but I'm working on picking it back up now. One of the few things I cooked this past semester is Kale and Kielbasa soup. This is one of the recipes that I call a refrigerator recipe, which means it's purpose is to use up as many things sitting around in my refrigerator before they go bad. As such the recipe keeps changing and I never actually measure anything, but I'll give you my best guess. For instance this time I made it I didn't actually use Kielbasa, but rather Bratwurst since it was on sale at the grocery store. You can add or subtract anything from this recipe that you want to fit what you have lying around.

And of course this wouldn't be my blog without a picture of a dog so here's one of my ever present helper.

How much of me needs to be on the linoleum before I count as in the kitchen? 

Kale and Kielbasa Soup

about a Tbs of olive oil
A small yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, also minced
4-6 medium potatoes
Some carrots. Okay, okay, around 3 or 4 large carrots.
32 oz chicken (or other) stock plus as much water as needed for desired consistency. (Watering down stock is one of the greatest cooking tricks I know, make stock stretch farther but tastes pretty much the same.)
2 tsp basal
2 tsp fresh or dried rosemary
1 tsp parsley
1 bunch of Kale (roughly 6 or 7 lightly compacted cups. This is one of the few ways I get vegetables into my diet at school so I like to cram in as much as possible.)
3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 link of Kielbasa (or 2 links of Bratwurst*, because hey it's not like Kielbasa in the title or anything)

Mince the garlic and onion then cook in the olive oil over medium until translucent (or you get bored). While onions are cooking dice potatoes and carrots, then add them to the onion and garlic. Add the stock at this time and bring to a simmer. Pull the Kale leaves off the stalks, then tear into bit size pieces before dropping them into the pot. Add the herbs now too. Either add the rice now if there is enough stock or you can cook it separately and add it at the end. Cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft. Slice Kielbasa and add to the pot. Serve when Kielbasa is throughly heated.

*if using uncooked sausage, put the whole sausage in the pot at the beginning with the onions and keep it there through the whole cooking process then slice at the end.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gowanus Adventures

Hi all, I know I've been MIA for a bit (school does that to you), but I just wrote a sample blog post for an application to be an official blogger for Cornell Abroad and I figured you might enjoy it too. The prompt was to write about a recent interesting experience.

Here you go:

I've just returned from a wonderfully refreshing trip which included sunny days and cooling breezes on the shores of a delightful waterway. Was it the Tuscan Riviera you ask, clapping your hands with glee. Well no, it was slightly closer to home. It was, in fact, the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, a EPA superfund site considered by many to be among the most polluted canals in the world. So, maybe I omitted the part about the cooling breezes carrying metal dust from the industrial recycling facility across the way and the delightful oder of raw sewage, and maybe the shores were more like concrete bulkheads crumbling into the canal, but the sunny part is true. And the canal does contain some fascinating wildlife including bacteria that's mutating too quickly for scientist to study since by the time they get the research funding to examine any particular type of bacterial it has already morphed into something else and, at least according to a poster I found, a lost squid that answers to the name Mr. Grabby, although I suspect that's a joke. Not certain though, weirder things have happened.

Why was I at this most desirable leisure spot do you ask? Data my friends. Data. More specifically collecting first hand data of what forest resources exist along the canal. My studio class project this semester is to create an urban forest along the Gowanus Canal and one of the best ways to go about it is to find out what is already there. 

I wasn't lying when I said the trip was refreshing. It was nice to get outside and work with my hands in the sunshine, between laying out grids and inventorying trees and soils I would glance into the canal and see the beautiful technicolor patterns of oil slicks waving as they undulated by. And… was that a tentacle?

Until next time my friends!

Friday, January 3, 2014


Happy 2014 everyone! My goals for this year are the same as they were last year, and the year before, and the year before... keep finding out who I am, keep moving forward, be healthier than the year before, be happy, find better ways of managing anxiety, and of course pet all the puppies.

Finding more about who I am brings us to the topic of this post; duality because it sounds better than conflicted. I find more and more that my life is full of concepts, aspects, interests that would seem mutually exclusive and I have to find a way to make them work together. For instance, I'm very interested in the urban side of Landscape Architecture, the modern clean lines, bustling cities, and bright colors. However, I myself just want to go walk in the woods, make my own jam, watch the sun rise, escape all the hallmarks of civilization. How can these coexist? I don't know, but I have to make it happen because I'm off balance otherwise. Other dualities are, being an adult and acting like a 4-year-old when my roommate and I plan out making forts in our room, confidence and doubt that my confidence is actually founded on anything, living on the East coast and being rooted in the West coast, wanting to travel and stay cuddled up under a blanket at home, wanting to grow but not wanting to deal with change. The list is endless.

Career fears bubble up to the top most often now, am I any good at Landscape Architecture? Is this really what I want? Will I be a success? What does it mean to be successful? What will I do if I'm not? I don't have the answers or worse think that I do. It's no secret that uncertainty drives me crazy so the anxiety bubbles and roils like a pot of boiling water, but the lid is still on catching the steam so it can never run dry. So my two options are either take the lid off and let the steam leave or turn off the heat. Of the two I think turning off the heat would be better as I always feel drained and unsatisfied when the pot boils dry.  And I'll have to start practicing right away as I fly off tomorrow to an internship that came together at the last minute at a place I've never been, working with someone I've never met, and living with people I know next to nothing about. Now that's a perfect recipe of anxiety if ever I've seen one. But I try to either let go of the things I'm afraid of because being afraid won't change them or for every bad scenario I come up with I try to find a good one to counter act it. We'll see how it goes.