From the Desk Of

One of my New Year's resolutions was to spend more time at home on the weekends. During the week, I almost never see the apartment during daylight hours, except for a small sliver of time between waking up and rushing out the door. I spend most evenings at class, at the gym, and/or working late at the office, so it's unusual that I'm home before 8pm.

To date, I have succeeded far better than I could ever have imagined. I've barely left the apartment over the past three weekends, and then only for short errands. I'm working on several school projects and doing a ton of editing these days, so most Saturday and Sunday hours are spent here, at my desk, typing and gazing out the window. When I'm not at the computer, I'm usually reading, trying to keep pace with the Book Club of One, or knitting while working my way through the Netflix queue.

I'm still cleaning, too. I did a deep clean of the living room closet and the bureau in the kitchen today, tossed a lot of old stuff, and finally put the Christmas tree away. Found about a dozen half-finished projects that had been stuffed in there during previous organizing frenzies: the corduroy blazer that Stephen started sewing in 2007, a half-finished hand quilting project, some embroidery still in its hoop, a sundress that I have been planning to finish for each of the past 2 summers, and a 95% complete afghan that I gave up on last winter when I decided it was too ugly to finish. It's a little overwhelming.

It's nice to be at home, though. I know we'll move out of this apartment eventually, and I want to be able to remember what it was like to be here, not just to pass through at the end of the day to actually live in the space.

That said, I think it's time I started spending a little more weekend time in the outside world. I really want to go into the city, see the Shepard Fairey survey when it opens at the ICA, maybe go to the aquarium. The icy sidewalks have thus far dissuaded me from venturing out, though. I felt the first pang of I'm-ready-for-spring yesterday while watching, of all things, a Vampire Weekend video on YouTube. I'm not sure where it was filmed, but the setting is so evocative of rural New York in the early spring, just after the snow has melted but before anything has bloomed, that I could almost feel the warm breeze in my lungs as I watched it. Oh, spring. How many weeks of snow do we have left? Eight?


What's Cooking:

Ah, January. Once I've emerged from the underwater-time of the holidays (quiet, calm, snowbound; everyday concerns far-off and muffled), the first thing I like to do to reorient myself is clean like a madwoman. The second is re-set my schedule. (No more going to bed at 1, 2, 3am. 11:30 is the new bedtime!) Yes, I become quite a strict disciplinarian after three heady weeks of presents, cake, hot chocolate and lollygagging.

The third thing I like to do in January is get in the newly-clean kitchen and start baking, especially things with citrus zest. Maybe it's Vitamin C deficiency, or a hankering for warmer climes, or the seasonality of the fruit, but all I want to eat these days is citrus. When I bit into an orange at work last week, it was like the malt syrup factory scene in Slaughterhouse Five*. I don't even usually like oranges. In the past few days, I've also had salmon with citrus salsa, sole with lemon-caper glaze, salad with lemon vinaigrette, and lemon madeleines with (surprise!) lemon glaze. Can't get enough.

I'm also thinking about making cheese. My sister gave me a mozzarella kit for my birthday, and it looks pretty easy. Stephen's making French bread this afternoon, and we cracked out some of last summer's saft yesterday. It's a non-stop homemade food frenzy around here.

We got several new cookbooks for Christmas. In fact, we got lots of every kind of book. We had to clear off an entire shelf in the living room to make space for them all. I've got a ton of new titles to add to the line-up for the Book Club of One. I'm starting with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, an electric book to go along with all of this acidic food.

I've been thinking about the twelve books I read last year, deciding which I'd recommend to myself if I were t0 start over again. I liked them all--I usually don't finish a book if I think it's a waste of time--but a few in particular really meant a lot to me. Mountains Beyond Mountains was the most powerful, followed by And the Band Played On. They made me glad that I'm learning to do health-related work. Of the novels, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was my favorite. I didn't expect it to be, but I think I read it at the right time, when the news was full of talk about recession, unemployment, and doing more with less: so many of the challenges that Francie's family faces. Somehow, it felt three-dimensional, like a book that I could get into and move around in. I didn't hold it at arm's-length. I hope I'll be able to find books as good this year.

* Speaking of good books:

Another true thing that Billy saw while he was unconscious in Vermont was the work that he and the others had to do in Dresden during the month before the city was destroyed. They washed windows and swept floors and cleaned lavatories and put jars in boxes and sealed cardboard boxes in a factory that made malt syrup. The syrup was enriched with vitamins and minerals. The syrup was for pregnant women.

The syrup tasted like thin honey laced with hickory smoke, and everybody who worked in the factory secretly spooned it all day long. They weren't pregnant, but they needed vitamins and minerals, too. Billy didn't spoon syrup on his first day at work, but lots of other Americans did.

Billy spooned it on his second day. There were spoons hidden all over the factory, on rafters, in drawers, behind radiators, and so on. They had been hidden in haste by persons who had been spooning syrup, who had heard somebody else coming. Spooning was a crime.

On his second day, Billy was cleaning behind a radiator and he found a spoon. To his back was a vat of syrup that was cooling. The only other person who could see Billy and his spoon was poor old Edgar Derby, who was washing a window outside. The spoon was a tablespoon. Billy thrust it into the vat, turned it around and around, making a gooey lollipop. He thrust it into his mouth.

A moment went by, and then every cell in Billy's body shook him with ravenous gratitude and applause.

There were diffident raps at the factory window. Derby was out there, having seen all. He wanted some syrup, too.

So Billy made a lollipop for him. He opened the window. He stuck the lollipop into poor old Derby's gaping mouth. A moment passed, and then Derby burst into tears. Billy closed the window and hid the sticky spoon. Somebody was coming.