We've been wearing snow boots a lot lately; the city got almost a foot of snow last week. Winter goes on. A lot of people feel that February is the nadir, the very depths of the annual bottoming-out of life (have you heard Dar Williams' February?), but I love this month. Even though it's just a few days shorter than most months, it goes by fast. I'm so relieved in the first week just to be done with January (now there's a long, dark month), and then there's Valentine's Day to look forward to and cards to make. I usually spend at least a week of the month sick, so that changes things up, and then before you know it (as I realized once again yesterday), it's practically over. Honestly, I just got around to changing my calendar over.

Also, the sun is setting so much later these days. It's still light when I leave the office. In a week it'll be March, and then Easter, St. Patrick's, Daylight Savings, and spring.

The approaching end of the month means I need to live up to my resolution to read a book every month. I'm more than halfway through The Omnivore's Dilemma, and am hoping to make some headway this weekend. I heard somewhere that Terry Gross reads a book every day, which makes my goal seem sort of pathetic, but without this deadline, I'd be in danger of never finishing a book at all. I don't know how many (non-school) books I read in 2007, but it was definitely less than 12. Omnivore's Dilemma is engaging, depressing, enlightening. I'm not sure what to follow it with. Maybe fiction? Something a little less facty. I'm also reading Marjane Satrapi's Chicken with Plums, trying to finish before I go to Maryland in March to see my friend Sarah. We always trade graphic novels when we visit each other.

Sarah, I hope you'll like it.


In Stitches

Poor Stephen had to get stitches today. He's got the week off from school, and had been planning to get so many things done. Here's his desk in its usual state: covered with school supplies and a dozen projects-in-progress.

We were away for the long weekend, but he got right to work this morning on the rocking chair he's been making for me. Things were progressing well until, on the last cut, he caught the knuckle of his left index finger with the hand saw. (Sorry. I hope you weren't eating.) Bleeding profusely, he dashed around the house looking for Band-Aids and trying to find the phone number for the doctor's office. I got a call at work a little while later and talked to him on speakerphone while he applied direct pressure to the wound and waited for his appointment.

Dude ended up with six stitches, a tetanus shot, some antibiotics, and an ice cream sundae from Emack & Bolio's (ice cream speeds healing, don't you know). Unfortunately, he's probably not going to be doing any more home improvements until the bandages come off. So no shelves in the closet, and no rocking chair--at least not this week. But I'm just happy to have him safe and sound.


Happy Valentine

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow! I've got my heart shoes all ready. I love this holiday. Always have. In high school, my friends and I would all send valentines to each other. There was always some group selling white and pink and red carnations as a fundraiser, and sometimes we'd buy those, or you could pay the choir to sing to your victim in the cafeteria during lunch. My friend Sarah sent me a Singing Valentine one year. Luckily, we were seniors then, so it was funny and nice. As a freshman, I probably would have suffocated under the weight of my own self-consciousness. All those people! Looking! At! Me! In the cafeteria!

I usually sent homemade valentines. One year I baked chocolate fortune cookies like these; another time I made wax paper hearts with crayons. Martha Stewart was a big influence. I still send out valentines each year, although my list has shortened considerably as I've gotten lazier and more self-indulgent. I'm pretty much down to immediate relatives this year. Soon I'll just make a batch of cookies for myself and call it a day.

I don't have big plans for tomorrow. Although I love Valentine's Day for the way it brightens up the otherwise bleak weeks of mid-winter, I don't like the more commercialized aspects of the holiday. Stephen and I never go out to dinner on V Day, nor do we buy each other roses or diamonds or anything like that. Instead, we usually stay home, light some candles, and challenge ourselves to cook an all-red meal (last year it was penne with homemade tomato sauce, salad with red peppers, and brownie sundaes with raspberry sorbet). Because tomorrow happens to be a Thursday, we'll also spend it watching Lost this year. I mean, what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than by watching a bunch of belligerent marooned travelers run around a mysterious island punching each other in the face? Don't you just love that?


Breakfast for Lunch

Stephen is student-teaching at a public school this semester. One of the advantages of working at public school vs private school (where he interned last year) is that he now gets school lunch. Sometimes he'll have leftovers and bring home a tiny orange, just bigger than a clementine, or an apple the size of a plum. I guess that's where they send the produce that doesn't make the grade supermarket-wise. I wonder if all oranges and apples used to be that size, before we had so many performance enhancers for them.

Today, Stephen's school had Breakfast for Lunch: french toast sticks with maple syrup. I like the concept of Breakfast for Lunch, but it wouldn't be much fun if lunch actually replicated my usual breakfast: yogurt with granola. Or, because we were out of yogurt this morning: black tea with milk and honey. That's not much of a lunch. But french toast sticks sound great.

What I don't like the sound of is Breakfast for Dinner. I want dinner to be a salty, hearty feast, not sweet and carby (you know--pancakes, toast, cereal). I'd much prefer Dinner for Breakfast. In fact, whenever I can get away with it, I'm perfectly happy to skip straight to "dinner food" first thing in the morning. Pizza, spaghetti, french fries: bring 'em on. I know, it's so wrong. So deliciously wrong.



I'm sick. I've got a sore throat. I feel weak. Waaaaaaaaaahhhh.

Okay, enough whining.

Good news: The sun set after 5 today! And I voted. This is an exciting primary. People kept asking last week, "Do you know who you're going to vote for?" I've been debating it a lot with Stephen at home, with co-workers at lunch, and often in my head. It's nice that the result isn't a foregone conclusion. It's nice to see people excited rather than scared or desperate, as so many were leading up to the presidential election in 2004.

On Sunday, before I got sick, we visited the MIT museum. I've never taken an engineering course, but seeing the many cool exhibits there made me wish I was studying robotics or biomedical engineering or something. Designing robots that mimic the human sense of touch? Doing cancer research with zebra fish? That's so interesting. And useful. (And a little sad for the zebra fish.) We monopolized the ROV simulation, honing our underwater piloting skills. Stephen was the one who finally beat the time limit. He's a natural. Me, not so much.

There were some really cool sculptures/machines by Arthur Ganson, too. Check out the Quicktime videos here. I really like the one with flying scraps of paper. (Warning: There's some sound.) I'm such a two-dimensional thinker; I would never have thought to do something like that.


Comfort / Food

I hear the Groundhog saw his shadow yesterday. No surprise there; winter's never going to end at the beginning of February. I'd count us lucky if it's over in six weeks, really. Maybe the climate's different in Punxsutawney, PA, but Feb 2 seems overly optimistic for Boston.

We drove out to the 'burbs yesterday: Concord and Burlington, MA. I bought this quilt at Upstairs Antiques, the same place that Stephen got me a suitcase and Stephen's mom got me a cake stand for Christmas. They had lots and lots of old blankets and quilts there, but this one jumped out at me for the incredible variety of fabrics and the sheer amount of (wo)manpower that went into it. It's a Postage Stamp quilt, which means that it's made of thousands of stamp-sized squares of fabric, all pieced together in a perfect grid. It has a little damage: the binding is frayed, a few squares are unraveling, and there's a small hole in the center square. Some past owner had covered the latter with a huge, bizarrely incongruent apple-shaped patch (??), which I painstakingly removed. I'm not sure how I'll fix the hole, but even the batting looks better than that patch.

One of my resolutions this year was to read more. I hardly ever read books for pleasure anymore. I read the New Yorker and Newsweek religiously, and lots of blogs and articles online, but rarely a book. I'm going to try to read one per month. In January, I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which explained away a lot of confusion I had about the Oxford comma and other niceties of punctuation. Yesterday, I bought The Omnivore's Dilemma, which comes highly recommended. I've just started it but am already glad that we're planning to get a CSA share this summer.

We also visited the (Famous) Concord Shop, where I bought a non-stick ("anti-adherent") madeleine pan. Stephen got me a regular madeleine pan a couple of years ago, but I've never gotten the hang of pre-greasing the thing, so my cookies always end up looking like torn sponges when I try to remove them after baking. I got interested in making these again when I saw Ratatouille a few weeks ago. You know the scene where the food critic bites into the ratatouille and flashes back to his childhood? That's an allusion to Proust and the madeleine in Swann's Way, right? Anyway, now I'm all excited to make some cookies. Cookies that don't disintegrate in the pan and break my heart.