Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tastes of autumn

I am a true Buffalo girl. When the weather is sunny and hot I'm pretty happy, but nothing perks me up like lousy weather. Gray, wet, cold days are wonderful, because they're perfect days for cooking. My favorite meal I prepared this summer was macaroni and cheese, one rainy day when it was stormy and gray and chilly outside and we almost lost power. The kitchen was warm and cozy as Shane made the macaroni and I made garlic broccoli so delicious that all of the campers ate it. We assembled our own parts of the meal independently, and as I broke the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and listened to the entire oeuvre of Neko Case, I felt completely content.

On Thursday, I didn't have much homework, the night was cold, and I was looking for a reason to feel cozy, so I stole a bunch of apples from a dining hall and made applesauce. Applesauce, as my beloved Laurie Colwin says, "is a snap to make as it actually makes itself." I had been daydreaming about applesauce as a companion to this gingerbread cake that I want to make for Christmas (Emily, your thoughts? I know you're not crazy about gingerbread, but this cake......), and such a night almost demanded applesauce.

In case you've never made applesauce before, here's a recipe, in brief. Peel and slice a few McIntosh apples (specified because they turn to mush beautifully, but Granny Smiths just fold their arms and glare when faced with heat), add a bit of water to the pot, cover and cook at low heat. When I say "a few," I used six medium-sized and it made enough for about six teacups of applesauce. The result makes the whole house smell warm and homey and is completely delicious without any added sugar. You can add cinnamon or honey or whatever you want, but I think homemade applesauce is best when unadulterated. Now go make some.

TODAY'S MUSIC: "Bohemian Rhapsody." My friends are cleaning their suite, and I am being their DJ.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

With exhaustion comes peace

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busiest days, but I love them the best. I get up early for Contemporary at 9, then hop a bus to Hampshire around 11:30, and I have "Dance in the 20th Century: African American Protest Traditions," followed by Making Dances 2. Then I jump on a bus and go home.

It sounds like it would be tedious and unpleasant, but it's really wonderful. First of all, I have Contemporary with Candice Salyers, one of my favorite humans on this Earth. Five lessons in with her, I feel like my style and understanding of the way I move has changed forever. I'm already getting the bun out and learning to loosen up. (Shockingly, a full semester of musical theater jazz did nothing for my style; I continued to dance everything like ballet, only in a backwards hinge.) Having dance first thing wakes me up, and I feel like my whole body is ready to face the day and embrace the world. I frequently bounce out of class feeling chipper and grinning obnoxiously at strangers.

The bus to Hampshire takes about 20 minutes (there's rarely much traffic), and I enjoy that time to just hang out in my own head for a while. In high school I think the real reason why I was so chockablock with neuroses was because I spent so much time on buses or waiting for them, with nothing else to do but think. Now, my schedule is so busy that the opportunity to just be with my own thoughts is something I relish. My profound thoughts on these bus rides usually revolve around the houses the bus passes, which ones I'd like to live in, and what my life might be like if I lived in them. This is the difference between Erika's relationship with architecture and my own. She likes to design houses in accordance with what she knows about people and their lives, what they might need space for. I like to imagine slipping into a house and by extension, somebody's life. This mentality probably just proves that I've read "The Lone Pilgrim" too many times, but it's still a fun game to play.

As for Hampshire classes, they're very interesting and fun, and my professors are very knowledgeable, but the thing that really blows my mind is how friendly everyone is. Complete strangers have walked up to me and started up conversations on multiple occasions. Sure, they might be hitting on me, but I think it's more likely that Hampshirites are just very social creatures. Anyway, I don't really love dance history that much, but that's just because I don't like analyzing articles. (See: why I am not a history major.) We get to see all kinds of wonderful dances that are all-new to me, and that is remarkable. Making Dances is probably my favorite class right now, or at least tied. It's certainly my smallest class; there are only five of us. Like all of my current and previous dance professors, Daphne is pretty groovy (word chosen for connotations) but very down-to-earth and thoughtful as well. In her class, I've come up with the best material I've ever produced, and the best part is that the majority of her teaching is guidance. The magic was in me all along!

At 3:45, I get on the bus headed home, mind racing with ideas for choreography and body so exhausted I sometimes wonder if I'll have to ride till the end of the line. Today I learned a very important lesson: if I don't save the cookie from lunch for the bus ride home, I will have to crawl up Bedford Terrace on my hands and knees. Dancers are the ultimate masochists. If we don't feel completely ravaged, we're all disappointed. My grueling day leaves me blissfully content.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free radicals and tannins, just the thing for heating the synapses

I like to come home to a cup of tea at the end of the day, and lately I've noticed that the kind of tea I want is a good indicator of the kind of day I've had. Lately my first choice has been Earl Gray, which pretty much means that my day has been long. On Wednesday, when I had to go to Hampshire at 7pm and waited for the bus for an hour (although talking to Emily on the phone passed the time wonderfully. I got so many dirty looks when I said I think children should learn how to work within the establishment), Alice offered to make me tea. When she asked me what I wanted, I knew I wanted something fragrant, because I had worked at the daycare center that day and all I had smelled for hours was bleach and urine. (No romantic ideas about babies over here.) She made me a cup of jasmine, which was the best thing I had smelled all day.

Today Baldwin went to the Alumnae House for tea, which was very nice and everything was fancy. I can't imagine what it would be like to stay in the Alumnae House, but I'm sure it would make me feel either very wealthy or very poor. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would serve people if I ever had a formal tea. Of course, the menu varies a little, depending on the season, but some of the absolutes include: currant scones, lemon curd, and clotted cream. If I ever host a real tea, I think I will actually make a raspberry jelly roll cake, because when else are you going to do it?
My teas will be legend--wait for it....pass the cream I think this tea needs a little DARY! Yes. I went there.

Mountain Day 2012: in which nothing goes as planned

Yesterday was Mountain Day! It was really unexpected, because a) it's rarely on Tuesdays or Thursdays and b) this is only the second week of classes. CAROLLLL!!!!
So. My house got a van and a whole bunch of cars, and we drove to a nearby orchard for some apple picking. However, it's still so early in the season that the farmers would not allow us to pick our own apples. Lots of them weren't even ripe. My mother's family motto is "Stick with the original plan," a philosophy that has given me some interesting stories and even more surprisingly fun picnics in various kinds of non-picnic weather, so I was all for clowning around in apple trees and exploring the orchard, but that plan was vetoed. We drove back home and Alice, Steve and I made pumpkin pie. I think I'll post the recipe later, because it was a fantastic pie that was significantly cheaper than the one Steve and I made last year.
Mountain Day may have been unusually early, but it was still really fun. A day ending in pie is a day well spent.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Master of my fate

I have gone through a few places of employment in my young life, and I have had a variety of interesting bosses and supervisors. They have been sadistic, incompetent, kind, capable, or some mixture of the aforesaid traits. However, my current boss is really wonderful, because not only is she courteous to her workers, she is also really good at her job. She kind of reminds me of Tina Fey, but I think that's just the haircut and the fact that they both have husbands named Jeff.
As far as I can tell, she never planned on working at a daycare center; she grew up on a Minnesota farm with six siblings. (Speaking of which, I finally worked up the courage to ask her, and it is true that in Minnesota, they put mayonnaise on everything.) She moved to Massachusetts because her then-boyfriend now-husband is getting his doctorate at UMass. The other two teachers in my group have similar "my man was moving here, so I went with him" stories, and this fascinates me. They talk about this like it's no big deal, but I can't imagine picking up and moving as a result of someone else's decision. They seem pretty satisfied with their lives, but I'm still getting used to the fact that sometimes your plans don't work out and life takes you completely by surprise. Maybe I've read Invictus one too many times.

Haha, gotcha. I don't read poetry! But still. This wants consideration.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Calm before the storm

All my friends have a ton of work already, but I don't have any assignments yet. Tomorrow I'm starting Chem (technically I had Chem on Friday, but with a different professor) and working from 12:15 to 5:15. The original plan was African dance on Monday nights, but I don't think I can do that, especially since I have  to start rehearsals for my piece for Making Dances 2 very soon. Things are going to get crazy starting tomorrow, and I'm trying to enjoy my free time now, but to be honest, being the only one with nothing to do is making me nervous. It feels like I'm in that stress dream where you've forgotten to do all your work all semester. Soon I'll be back in my favorite soundproof room, listening to Matt & Kim and writing out all my notes, then typing up what I've written out for further retention.

Speaking of Making Dances 2, my professor seems very nice but (predictably) she's a little vague. She told us to explore as many kinds of music and as many styles of dance as possible, but she didn't provide any examples of what dances we should see. As it happens, I am not nearly as well versed about specific dances as I should be, so I am left with nowhere to start. Today I watched Paul Taylor's Esplanade, which completely blew me away. It's remarkable in that the actual movement is very simple; except for the very end of the piece, the dancers primarily run in and out of various formations. That description makes the dance sound dull, however, and it's one of the most stirring pieces of choreography I've ever seen. The dancers are extraordinary! Their energy and precision (just because they were mostly running and shifting weight, doesn't mean they were sloppy. Every breath and blink was deliberate) drive the whole piece. The best performances come from casts who are really comfortable with each other and relate to each other really well. More than anything, that's what I want to see in my piece, but you can't force people to be close. I have to let it happen. Roll with it. Everything will work out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Smif^3 returns, more socially awkward than ever!

HONS training lasted a week (give or take a little) of nonstop lectures about resources, wellness, how to be a leader, and I still find myself feeling a lot like I felt at camp this summer. Not when I was in the kitchen cooking--I'm awesome at that-- but when I ventured out amongst the campers and they had problems I could not solve or even respond appropriately to. I once had a conversation with a nine-year-old (let's call her Hannah) about her friend, Girl A (names omitted because I forgot them) who wanted to be friends with a new camper, Girl B. Hannah felt she was losing Girl A's friendship because she and Girl B didn't get along, so they couldn't hang out together, but Girl A and Girl B were inseparable. The solution to this problem, of course, is "don't be a nine-year-old girl." Obviously this was not feasible for Hannah, but as I could not think of a solution that might actually work, I just sat there awkwardly and made sympathetic noises. Then I changed the subject.

You'd think that my lack of helpfulness would be because counselors went through problem-solver training or something, something I did not do because it would be nonessential for kitchen staff. Guess what? There was no such training! The counselors were just more competent than I. Now I have gone through training, and I still don't feel prepared. Like it or not, during orientation, a HONS is pretty much a camp counselor, and the biggest difference is substance consumption. I really want to be good at my job, I just hope I don't freak people out on account of being overzealous or socially awkward.

I think the most helpful thing will be to figure out my approach to problem solving. It might be that whenever I want to talk to anybody about anything serious, I'll have to invite them over for tea, or to take a walk, or just into the kitchen. Maybe it's just my friends and family, but I have found that people are more willing to open up when doing something other than talking, and even more willing if they're in a kitchen. Even if they aren't cooking! I bet it has something to do with childhood associations, and a kitchen reminds you of home or at least the stereotypical home atmosphere, so you subconsciously relax.

I can do this. And hey, if I ruin everything, I can always move out.

Today's music: Michelle Shocked, album Short Sharp Shocked. If I ever write my own cookbook, I'd like to add songs that correspond to each recipe. A lot of vegan cookbooks do that, but those songs are all metal. Silly vegans! Food responds best to love, not rage!