Friday, August 28, 2009

First Post

I am quite excited to be starting this. I just hope that I maintain, if not the enthusiasm, the strength of character to continue with this blog over time. The goal will be to maintain this blog for a year.

Anyway, I've got my iPhone set on my desk, the timer ticking away.

This week was my first week back at school. The summer proved too short, and I was stressed and really unprepared to begin. I've got a paper as part of my summer requirement this year, and it is not as far along as I had hoped. I've signed up for a seminar on "Overcoming Writer's Block" in a few weeks.

I am reminded of my high school AP English class. We had to read On Writing Well by William Zinsser, as well as Strunk and White's celebrated The Elements of Style. But it was Zinsser's book that got the most well worn, that I still think of whenever I write anything, and his quote that stays in my mind: "I like to HAVE written." Writing itself, even in this little blog, even for this short time, causes me pain. I'm nervous, my chest and throat tighten...I just can't make myself do it. Sure, starting last Wednesday I was thinking about writing. I gathered observations, crafted a few sentences, thought "15 minutes, no problem" (And at this point my timer has gone off...time does fly, but I'll keep going). Instead, I'm filled with dread, even as I feel good about starting something, something good. (I've changed over to the timer now...Let's see how long it will take me to finish this post! I'm curious. Rules are the same. I have to stay seated, fingers moving the whole time.)

One of the many exercises that we had to complete in that AP English class was free writing, once again, something from Zinsser. And although I love the feel of pencil pushing on paper, I hated what I came up with when I free wrote, and I hated the look of my scrawl, and I hated my big ugly letters on the ugly notebook paper. I hated that I filled pages in my notebook, and would be satisfied with myself, and then, when I took it to the computer, and typed it up, it suddenly became nothing but a paragraph or two. My cohorts, it seemed, could all put out a page or two in free writing in the same amount of time. They wrote better too, more lyrically, more persuasively, more and better of everything, it seemed.

So, what did I think about writing these past few days? I thought about writing about the first day of school. Normally, I don't mind the first week of school. It's just introductions, and very little in the way of being judged. But I had the summer paper...

I was surprised that the first week went as smoothly as it did, really. The only bit on inconvenience was that on the first day, as I drove into the school parking lot, I realized that my parking pass expired on that day, so I had to make my way to the parking office and wait in line, with all the other unprepared people like me, to purchase a new one for the upcoming school year.

I'm enrolled in a communications class this semester. That means this semester I get to work on two things I need to at: writing and public speaking. The funny thing is, when I was an undergrad, I enjoyed public speaking. Sure, I was anxious when I was waiting my turn to go up to the podium, but when my turn came, I felt in control, and I felt that I could go on as long as I needed to. It was rather fun. Somewhere between then and now, however, I lost all my self confidence. I am surprised to find my voice shaking now, when I speak (horror!), and I imagine that I must be one of those people that is uncomfortable to watch: Poor girl, so nervous!

Perhaps I should frame this in my mind as my semester for self-improvement.

I also spoke about my project to a good friend of mine, and explained my doubts that I would be able to find something to write about for 15 minutes. She suggested that perhaps I take pictures from around town--say, get in the car, drive for 5 minutes, stop in whatever safe area I happened to be near, and take a photo. I thought that that was a great idea, and so, as another goal in for my blog, will be that on Fridays I will include a "Weekly Snap" and I will write a short blurb on what I saw.

I also felt adventurous this week, and cooked on Wednesday: channa masala (chickpeas) and saag paneer (spinach and cheese), using this recipe for channa masala, which I had used once before, and this recipe for saag paneer from Quick Indian Cooking (QIC), which was new. For the channa, I found that I had forgotten to buy a can of chopped tomatoes, and used a can of tomato soup instead. The end result looked very much like a pot of pork and beans. The curries muted out the sweetness of the tomato soup, but it was still there. I would not try that substitution again in this recipe.

As for the saag paneer, I had no paneer (Indian cheese), but had read that ricotta makes a good substitute. It was not a good substitute. I started out following the directions in QIC, carefully scooping out the ricotta and cutting it into cubes, but as I attempted to coat the ricotta in spices, the cubes squashed together and when I tried to fry the glop, it started melting in the pan instead of frying. I also did not have any sort of blender. I gave up and ended up following the directions of this recipe, instead. The result looked like a spinach dip and nothing like the photo in QIC. It was also more bland than I thought it should it be. It was passable, and I would try again, but not with the QIC recipe.

I also have a pound and a half of ricotta left over. I think I will be making cheesecake in the near future.

The next day, I got little done except for kitchen cleaning. I live in a small, not-that- modern apartment. My window is on the complete opposite side of the apartment from my stove. My stove has no vent. To vent the kitchen, I have to use one fan to blow the air from the kitchen into my living area, and a second fan in the window to vent out the living room. I sprayed down the countertops and the cooktop, Pine Sol-ed the outside of the cabinets, as well as the doors to my bedroom and bathroom (which I had kept closed to keep the ENTIRE place from smelling like curry), and yes, even sprayed and wiped down the walls and ceiling of my kitchen. Thankfully, I have a flat ceiling (in all my previous living arrangements, I had popcorn ceilings). My ceiling looks whiter now. And I want to reiterate that when I get a house, I want one with a industrial canopy vent hood.

Now, for the weekly snaps! Both were taken on campus. I am assuming that the first photo was some sort of forestry lab. Four or five other trees along that street had similar climbers. For the second photo, I realized that I walk past these rose bushes every single day, and have never really seen or appreciated them. I'm making up for that now.

(note: end time, including a pause to eat, and some time trying to figure out how to embed the photos 6:54pm)