Saturday, February 25, 2012

Down Memory Lane

This week was one of those weeks where it was Monday night and I already felt like I might not make it. I think we all have those weeks sometimes, although this one was particularly stressful since it included not one but two trips to the Fulton County courthouse to renew my passport. Judging by the amount of hoops the U.S. makes you jump through just to renew your passport, it's a wonder anyone ever leaves this country. Also, to whomever formatted the street layout in downtown Atlanta: no one likes you. Also, thank God for Steve Jobs and the iPhone or I might still be in Grant Park, hopelessly lost (I could have sworn I was heading north, not south). Suffice it to say I got lost several times in the labyrinth that is downtown Atlanta (even with my iPhone).

It's all over now though, so there's that.

But as I studied for my two tests and quizzes this week, struggling to remember the difference between the format file data took whether or not I used readline() or readlines() in Python, or the difference between the "foot in the door" and "door in the face" psychology techniques, I got to thinking: how much valuable, relevant information is being pushed out of my brain because my stubborn mind refuses to let go of the the name and order of every episode from The O.C., thousands of Friends lines, and the lyrics to N*Sync's "Pop"?

I admit this week was somewhat of a trip down memory lane for me. When I went home this past weekend, my mom gave me four DVDs that contained all the music on our (very) old home computer. The music I listened to in middle and high school. So, basically, every song that was ever on The O.C. (Hey, I'm just keeping it real here.)

I inserted one of the DVDs Monday morning and was quite literally overwhelmed with joy when I spotted several Patrick Park songs, close to all of The Shins' albums, and a few lost jems ("Good Day" by Tally Hall, where have you been the last five years of my life?!). It was very nostalgic. And only slightly embarrassing.

Just a few days later, on February 22nd, marked five years since the series finale of The O.C. You'll notice most of my nostalgia centers around The O.C. and if you knew ninth-grade-era me, you wouldn't be surprised. I clearly recall that day five years ago when I, curled up in the fetal position, cried until I couldn't breathe as the final credits rolled, not even comforted by my own mother. "I can't... believe... it's... overrrrr," I wailed. My mother probably thought I had finally lost my mind.

Even as I type this now, I can't help but laugh at how totally obsessed I was with that show. I made it my personal mission to convert nearly everyone I knew to devoted O.C. fans, calling my mission "paying it forward." I even, for a brief period anyway, was convinced that I wanted to become a television writer. Every time I went to Barnes & Noble I made a beeline for the TV Writing section and intensely read every "How to Become a Television Drama Writer"-type book I could find. I compiled a master O.C. playlist filled with 95% of the songs ever on the show, in order. I made it a life goal to amass the other five percent, although I never could (oh, Alexandra Patsavas (the music supervisor, for those out of the loop, and yes, of course I still remember her name!), you made it so hard). I also memorized the scene in which every song played.

I wrote fan fiction.

That alone should tell you how invested I was in this series. And I'd be lying if I told you that I don't wish I could still read it. It would be simultaneously mortifying/awesome.

But I digress. These days I find myself more obsessed with food blogs and schoolwork than teen melodramas. How did I ever have the time to become so devoted to a television series of all things? These days I find it hard enough to just keep up with one show.

If there's one thing I'm not, it's a casual viewer. If I get into a TV show, I really get into it. I re-watch the seasons over and over again, read all the viewer forums (never actually commenting), and follow all the cast members on Twitter. It's a sickness, really. But it makes me me. It's my underlying passion and desire to know everything about a subject that I can (which also manifests itself in my love of reading and re-reading every Cook's Illustrated magazine and cookbook until the write-ups become comfortably familiar).

So this morning, when I caught ten minutes of an O.C. episode (episode 1.15, "The Third Wheel," and no I didn't need to look that up), I felt transported back to the eighth grade, when my biggest life dramas were wondering whether Ryan and Marissa would ever work things out (and also when I would ever get my braces off). It was the best way to start my day.

Time flies. When did I become so old?

P.S. My manifesto, circa 2008, only shared because I value truth and honesty. Warning: no tl;dr version is available.

Friday, February 24, 2012

well said/friday inspiration

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."
--JK Rowling


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dinner in NY

What does your dinner look like?

Miho Aikawa recently debuted a project titled Dinner in NY, which shows the images of people eating dinner in the metropolitan melting pot of New York City. The portraits are wildly different: the people, the surroundings, the food, and especially the time.

One of the portraits shows a monk from Myanmar eating a full array of delicious foods. At 11:17 AM, since he doesn't eat after noon. (I shamefully admit that 11:17 is sometimes my breakfast time, not my dinner time.) Another shows a drummer eating take-out late at night (or, rather, early in the morning) after a long rehearsal. It might not be "my" definition of dinner, but it's his. I think there is something really personal and intimate about our meals and the food we eat, and that's what so cool about this project.
U Pa Mok Kha is a monk from Myanmar who cannot eat after 12 noon. Local people bring him food and after he is done, he shares the rest of the food with them. 
Age: 55 Time: 11:17 AM  Location: Jackson Heights, Queens

In beginning this project, Aikawa aimed to answer the question, "What is a quality dinner?" Is it the quality of the food, the people you eat with, or the circumstances that define the dinner?
Robert and Vivian DeRosa share Sunday family dinner, 
a long-standing tradition as Robert grew up in the same home. 
Age: Robert 60, Vivian 55  Time: 5:59 PM Location: Fresh Meadows, Queens

Of course, in today's fast-paced world, the ritual of eating a meal has really gone by the wayside. It seems more people "eat to live" rather than "live to eat." Certainly there's nothing wrong with that, but as a food lover, I really cherish my meals (I only get three a day, after all).
Matthew Vogel relaxes with a sandwich and a beer during the evening commute to Pleasantville, NY. 
Age: 30 Time: 6:59 PM  Location: White Plains, Harlem Line

According to a study in Public Health Nutrition, eating as a primary activity has declined in the past 30 years, but eating as a secondary activity has risen substantially. And half of our eating is done while doing something else: watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing Words with Friends.... (I think I see a trend here).

When I eat dinner, I am also usually doing something else. Most often I'm reading blogs, which is a great way for me to wind down after a long day. Other times I'm watching TV. Sometimes I even eat in bed, which is my favorite place to eat dinner. Especially if Friends or a really good/bad reality show is on (i.e., anything with a Kardashian or Real Housewife).
Jai Yoon Lee, a student from South Korea, has dinner in her dorm room watching her favorite Japanese TV shows. 
Age: 20  Time: 7:51 PM  Location: Greenwich Village, New York
 [Full disclosure: this is pretty much what my dinner looks like, except 
a) I wish I lived in Greenwich Village and b) it's approximately three hours later]

But for me, there's no comparison to a long, leisurely meal enjoyed in good company. Whenever my sister and my mom and I go out to eat, it's wonderful. We order a bunch of things to share, and the conversation and food are always stellar. It's a simple thing, but, as Aikawa says, it really brings the pleasure back to the table.

[Photos and Captions from Miho Aikawa Photography]

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One Simple Change

This has not been a good week.

Sorry to be semi-depressing, but it really hasn't.

I was feeling the stress come on in full force Monday night as I made my way back to my apartment after a long, exhausting day. I had just been through a less-than-stellar Chemistry recitation. The culmination of lab reports, crazy homework coding assignments (made only slightly better by the references to Harry Potter, but still), tests, and quizzes combined to make me feel as though I might be sick. To be clear, this never ever happens to me. While I am absolutely the type of person who totally zones in during times of stress, only coming up for food and water, I rarely feel the physical ramifications of too much stress and anxiety.

But Monday was different. Do you ever have your feelings hurt or your ego bruised and then that's all you can think about for the rest of the day? That's me. It stays with me like a permanent lump in my throat. I'm a people pleaser, through and through. And my feelings were hurt. And then I got frustrated. And then I got angry.

And then I read this.

One simple change: let it go. Easier said than done, I must admit, but at the time, it really struck me. Just let it go, Sara. 

And wouldn't you know, once I committed to letting it go, I no longer felt so angry or frustrated or stressed. I suddenly felt determined, like I could overcome this week.

It was a simple change, but it made a big difference.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye

It started with a perceived typo.

“Have you heard of gotye?”

Um, what?

“Just listen to somebody that I used to know,” my sister typed via G-mail chat. Oh, it’s an artist. My sister has never led me astray when it comes to music, so  I made a mental note to do some exploring.

It took me a few days to get to it, but I finally did, and all I’ve been listening to recently is this song. I haven’t put a song on repeat since I owned a CD player and listened to N*Sync’s “Pop” over and over again, until I knew all the lyrics by heart.

Wait, what?

In any sense, give it a listen. It’s a beautiful song, beautifully written, and beautifully performed, with a wonderful build-up to the climactic duet at the end. It’s completely infectious and addicting.

Also, the music video is all kinds of awesome, telling a story better in a relatively static frame than some artists can in ten-plus minutes (ahem, Lady Gaga).
Are there any new songs you can’t get out of your head lately? What have you been listening to?

Breaking the Silence


It’s been a while.

More than two months, which is kind of shameful. A semester has come and gone, and a new one has started. Sixteen credit hours again. I’m getting into the swing of it, establishing a routine that seems to work well. (Yet I, in an obvious state of deliriousness, decided it’d be fun to read 265 pages of a business novel (apparently this genre exists) in five days, on top of lab reports (torturous, in case you were wondering), exams, and other homework.)

The good news is that this semester is already a million times better than the last, and it’s only been four weeks. I think I prefer the more relaxed pace of spring semester over the rushed and, while completely exciting, rather hectic and stressful fall semester (football games and all).

While I’ve been away, there’s certainly not been a lack of delicious cooking. There was a divine gingerbread apple upside down cake, lots of Thanksgiving deliciousness, a really awesome cranberry wild rice, better-than-Starbucks cranberry bliss bars, and plenty of soup. And also my beginning-of-the-semester treat to myself: cheesecake for dinner, enjoyed while watching Friends in bed. Don’t judge.

But there’s also been lots of oatmeal. A lot. It’s almost too embarrassing to admit how much.


You’re probably noticing a few changes in this space, too. I’ve thought a lot about these changes. I think it was important for me to take a break from this blog for an extended period. It really made me miss it.

I’m the kind of person who loves the idea of keeping a journal but is awful at keeping one. For this reason I really admire my mom, who has had a blog for nearly five years (!) and a series of Moleskine journals documenting the last five-plus years of her life.

If I’ve learned anything over these last two months of hibernation, it’s that I really miss blogging. I miss the connections I get to make with other bloggers, the thrill of seeing a creation published, and, most of all, the writing process. Writing is my oldest passion; it’s something I’ve kept with me in one form or another for half of my life. I really missed it.

When I started this blog eighteen months ago I wanted it to be strictly food-driven. I’m not actually sure why I thought keeping a food blog would be so easy while starting college, but then again I had a lot of expectations of college life dashed when I was a freshman.

But, as an engineering student, I’ve found that I really need a creative outlet. There’s only so many computer science and stochastics problems I can do before I go totally crazy. I am a soulful college girl, after all.

I’m going to see how it goes, but for now I want to shift the focus from cooking and baking to my life—everything from the music I’ve been listening to, cool things I stumble upon (but not on StumbleUpon, a site I really loathe), and other random bits and pieces. And, I suspect, from time to time there will also be a few culinary creations, because I might be the only person who is completely inspired by the thought of a graham cracker “cookie” that is legitimately just a buttery graham cracker crust. (Can someone please make this happen? Am I totally crazy for having craved this for the last two weeks?!)

So welcome to the new soulful college girl. I hope you like what you find here.