Herbs and Votes

I got some chamomile and cedar at Cambridge Naturals a while back. I love shopping in the bulk herbs section there. They've got rows and rows of big jars holding everything from the mundane (cinnamon, oregano) to the extravagant (whole vanilla beans) and the fantastic ("ceremonial white sage"?). I've been drinking a lot of chamomile tea lately because the caffeine in black tea gives me a headache. (I know that caffeine is supposed to relieve headaches, but it seems to have the opposite effect on me.) I wanted to try making it the old-fashioned way, with a strainer, rather than buying tons of individually-wrapped bags. More fun that way, and less waste.

The cedar was an impulse buy. I ended up putting it in the coat closet. The smell of cedar always makes me think of my parents' house, where there is a grove of red cedar in the side yard. My dad cuts down the trees that grow too close together and carves the wood into elaborate, sweet-smelling things: headboards, shelves, walking sticks. He even made me a cedar doorstop when I left for college.

I was thinking about college this weekend when I started checking electoral-vote.com again. In fall 2004, one of my co-workers at the library introduced us to the site, and we checked it first thing each day when we arrived for work. Three of us were big-time liberals, and one guy was an undecided moderate, so we tried and tried to convince him not to vote for Bush. I think we finally won that argument, but of course, we lost in the end. Maybe our candidate just wasn't compelling enough; our arguments were anti-Bush rather than pro-Kerry.

But I'm feeling different this time around. I'm really excited and hopeful about Obama, even after last week's underwhelming debate. And really looking forward to the VP debate!


The Week in Review

Really feels like fall all of a sudden, doesn't it? This picture was taken just a couple of weeks ago, when I was visiting my parents and some very good friends in the Hudson Valley. It felt like summer then, but now it's crisp and even chilly. We put the big comforter on the bed on Wednesday, and Stephen has taken his jeans out of summer storage.

Thursday was my two-year anniversary at my job. I remember that first day well. We were house/petsitting out in Harvard, Mass, and Stephen was teaching in Cambridge, so we had to get up in the dark to feed the pets and take the dog for a walk before making the slow drive toward the city on Rt. 2. Once we got to Stephen's school, I had a 45 minute walk to the office. I arrived early, and my new boss gave me a long list of stuff to do, and I felt completely lost. My predecessor had left a month earlier, and school had already been in session for two weeks, so there was a pile of mail on my desk and a sense that we were already way behind. Also, it was September 11th, which is a strange day in any place.

My first year of work was difficult. I didn't hire any interns at the beginning of the semester, so there was no one to help out when things got busy. If we were having an event, I had to hang up all the flyers and carry the food and set up the projector and chairs by myself. Everyone else in the office worked part-time, so I spent many days alone at my desk. Meanwhile, Stephen and I were moving into a new apartment, and I hardly knew anyone in Cambridge. I wasn't taking classes, I hadn't joined the gym, and I didn't know my way around. It was really lonely, and I wondered if I'd made a mistake.

It's hard to remember that now. My life feels so far from there. But it was difficult and sad, and it took a long time to get past it, and I think it's good to remember it once in a while, to think about how things change. As a kid, I used to think that adults were static. Like, once you stopped growing physically, you were also fully formed as an adult. I'm still amazed at how things continue to change, all the time. This has been a week of little milestones.

After seven years of vegetarianism, I started eating fish again on Thursday. I'm still not going to eat chicken or beef or bacon or anything, but I need more protein. For one of my classes this semester, we're assigned to undertake a Lifestyle Transformation Challenge. It has to be health-related, and it has to be difficult. Mine is to get 46 grams of protein a day, the recommended minimum for my height/weight/age. I think I've been getting about half that. It's tricky to track nutrition content, but with my handy nutrient database I'm muddling through. I'm also trying protein shakes. I thought I'd never buy those things in a million years, 'cause I'm not some kind of crazy athlete, but now I rely on them if I fall behind on any given day. Change, see?

Also, I took my first trip to the ER last night. I wasn't injured; I was with Stephen's brother, who had almost broken his arm on the slippery, rain-drenched streets of Boston. The ER was way different than I imagined it would be. It was very quiet and calm. There were worn-out New Yorkers on the end tables, and we looked at the cartoons. Some silly awards show was playing on the TV. People argued quietly with the receptionist about getting their parking tickets validated. If it hadn't been 9pm, we could just as easily have been at the dentist's office. No screaming or crying, no spurting blood. Probably it would have looked different if we'd been at the ambulance entrance, which I guess is what they show on TV, but it was nice. I'm glad it wasn't scary. I think the term "emergency room" makes it seem like there will be flashing lights and air horns going off when you get there.

So: emergency room, fish eating, and a work anniversary. How to cap off this momentous week? There's a Lebanese restaurant down the street that we've meant to try since we moved here, but never have. I hear that they have an amazing Pumpkin Kibby, whatever that is. So we're going out to lunch.



I got not one but two of the things on my list done yesterday. The Rice Krispie treats were awesome. I remember convincing my mom to make them once when I was little. As she scrubbed the congealed marshmallow mess off of the pan, she told me that we would not be making them again "for a long, long, long time." And she was right! I didn't make them again until yesterday, so it's probably been about twenty years. I don't think I'll wait that long for the next time, though. Melting a whole bag of marshmallows is really fun.

I might have to retract some of my glowing comments about yesterday's weather. The rain was really nice, but the humidity was ridiculous; the kind that makes you sweat even when you're sitting still. I ended up camping out on the living room floor last night, sleeping directly under the fan, because it was the only cool place in the house.

Here's my progress so far with the embroidery. This little patch took about three hours, but some of that was prepping the fabric and fixing mistakes. (Also, we were watching The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, so that was distracting.) I bought some more gingham with a bigger check, so maybe I'll switch to that until I get my technique down.

I can't commit to a September book. I have a huge stack of potentials on my desk, but can't decide which to start. I've begun A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but it's really long and I'm worried that it'll stretch into October. Also, the copy I have is an ancient hardcover from my parents' library, so I can't really carry it around with me on the T. And I don't feel like I'm quite ready to give up on Willa Cather just yet, so I bought Death Comes for the Archbishop at Porter Square Books yesterday. Maybe I'll switch. When you only read one book a month, you want it to be just the right one.


Stormy Weather

Not really stormy, actually, but it was damp and light gray when I woke up this morning, some of my favorite weather. The geraniums wish they were outside soaking up the rain. My history with houseplants is pretty sad. I've killed four this summer: an ivy, a fern, and two jade plants. All I've got left are these five geraniums, a spider plant in the kitchen, and a huge philodendron that's threatening to gobble up the couch and Stephen's desk, Little Shop of Horrors-style. (My brother was the puppeteer for Audrey II in his college's production a few years ago.) I used to go through this cycle every year in college--I'd buy a plant, over- then under-water it, watch it grow tall and spindly, then wither, and finally throw it out at the end of the year. My jade plants all died suddenly and mysteriously. The ferns limped along interminably, dying just a little at a time, refusing to respond no matter what I did--more sun, less sun, more water, less water. No reasoning with 'em. The survivors of this summer's massacre all seem to be doing well now, though. I'm happy to say.

Classes started this week. I know I'll soon be bogged down with homework, so I'm trying to get out and have fun before that happens. Stephen and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts out on the Green Line on Wednesday night. I haven't been there since we moved to Boston. We only had a few hours before closing, so we went straight for the best parts: the Egyptian mummies, the Japanese prints, the musical instruments, European paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Stephen and I each picked our favorite painting--I like Manet's Street Singer and Stephen picked Van Gogh's portrait of the Postmaster Joseph Roulin. We also saw some ceramics by Diego Romero, which reminded me of living in Santa Fe.
There was a great exhibit of portraits near the stairs in the Evans wing, too. A surprising number of rooms were either packed up or empty, though. I want to go back when the new stuff is up. I think the whole museum is undergoing extensive renovations, so by the time I get back there the whole place will probably look pretty different.

I don't know if it's Summer Nostalgia or what, but my To Do list lately seems to be leaning kitschy and domestic. I want to make Rice Krispie treats and homemade marshmallows, and I want to try embroidering Chicken Scratch on gingham, and sew polka dot curtains to go with my new polka dot sheets. This weather is making me feel like sitting and reading, though, so if I get even one of those done this weekend, I'll consider it a success.