Thursday, March 31, 2016

throwback photos #7

in 2014, I blogged off and on, and also dropped off in photography as I moved house, changed schedules, and had a bit less time on my hands... the self-portraiture I did moved back into the personal processing zone, and other photographic pursuits fell by the wayside.  my creative output moved into some digital art/drawing/writing, or moved from dslr to phone for convenience's sake. I think this is the last #throwbackphotos, as it brings us basically to the present, so... onward to new material as time permits!

(more throwback photos)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

three-ingredient potato soup

okay, four, if you count, like, salt.

this is the easiest potato soup in the world.  seriously, the hardest part is finagling the cream cheese package open.  there isn't more to say about it besides it's good, it's warm when the weather is not, and you can freeze the leftovers and eat them forever and ever, which is great if you're me and you don't have time/energy to cook every day.  or every week.  life is hard, okay?

so here we go.  ingredients!

  • six to eight russet potatoes (I used a whole smallish bag from trader joe's.)
  • one package of cream cheese (don't freak out.  you're already making an entire soup out of starches. perspective, people.)
  • a carton of vegetable broth or beef broth or whatever broth, I suppose.
  • salt, geeze.
step one: peel, wash, dice your potatoes. a little smaller than cubic inches will do.

step two: put the potato cubes into your crockpot (mine is the 5 qt size) and cover them generously with vegetable broth. I didn't have a whole thing of vegetable broth, so I added water, and it was totally fine.  just cover the potatoes with liquid of some variety.

step three: turn it on low overnight. this will still need to be turned up to high for a bit in the morning, so you could also just put it on high for several hours during the day. it'll depend on your crockpot, so make friends with it. 

step four: in the morning, crank it up and stir it quite a bit. this breaks down the cubes into smush.  I like my smush really smooth so I squish the cubes against the side of the pot as well. 

step five: when it's smooth enough for you, assess the liquidy properties. bear in mind it will set up (and I mean set. up.) when it cools, and you'll be adding broth every time you reheat it, so it will stretchhhh.  if you're still like "ehhhh it's too liquidy for me," then take the lid off for awhile and it'll boil off a little bit. 

step six: open the packet of cream cheese and slice it into smallish cubes as well.  dump these into the soup and stir it around.  let it cook a little longer, until they melt down and your soup looks super creamy and nice.  

step seven: turn off the crockpot and let it cool for awhile until you're comfortable putting it in your freezer containers and whatnot.  you could also eat it at this point.  I recommend topping with shredded cheddar, because why not, and also adding your salt to taste at this point.  if you're the kind of person who keeps chives around, you could make this a five-ingredient soup.  

that's it! the pro move here is to make that vat and freeze it, and every time you pull some out to reheat, you'll find it's really thick and can take extra broth to smooth it out.  and I am all about that, my friends.  let me know in the comments if you make this and like it!  also let me know if you have other recipes you like with not many ingredients, because I a.) am broke, b.) live in NY where food is $$$$$$, and c.) share a teeny house without much room for random cooking supplies to lie around. 


Monday, March 28, 2016

more city wandering + the met round two

after we teared up at visited hamilton grange, we hopped back on the m3 and took it down to 96th street, where we disembarked and sallied forth to my favorite nyc starbucks.

(I can say that because I've been to about six or eight of them so far and this one is the most pleasant yet.  if you're curious, it's the one at 96th and madison.  you're welcome.)

suitably caffeinated and recuperated, we walked down central park to the met.  in case you missed it, here's the met round one.

I hadn't been into the egyptian exhibit before, and that was really fascinating to me - and not just because of nostalgic cluefinders feels, okay?

but mostly because of nostalgic cluefinders feels.

besides that, we mostly went through halls I'd been to the first time around, which is almost more fun because you're surprised at every turn by something you didn't notice before.  you'll be like "whoa," and then turn around and recognize the next painting and you're like "dude I was right here, how did I miss this?"

still loving  the recreated interiors.  even though the dining room below did have a lot of naked dudes in alcoves all around the dinner table.  can you imagine that?  don't look up. don't look up. just stare straight into aunt bertha's eyes...

oh, below is a sculpture I found really interesting! the plaque read, "The pronounced spiral movement was prompted by the mythological subject: Clytie, jilted by Apollo, was metamorphosed into a sunflower, her head always turning toward the sun in its course."  just...yeah.  very cool.

this post wraps up our nyc adventures for now!  I hope you've enjoyed all of the museum forays of the past month.  now my feet need a break from walking ten mile days so many times...

edited to add: if you want to see a video account of our day, check out lindsey's vlog!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

it's quiet uptown (hamilton grange)

yesterday was quite literally quotes from "hamilton" from start to finish.

I went into the city for the fourth and final time this month yesterday to meet up with a friend and her brother and do some educational sightseeing.  I felt like a pro knowing where all the streets are and how we were oriented without looking at my phone much, haha.  then again, I've pretty much combed the area, like I said, four times in the last month alone.

the weather was incredible.  seriously, flawless.  after the st. patrick's day fiasco, the streets seemed roomy and quiet, if you can imagine that in nyc...

so lindsey had the brilliant idea to visit hamilton grange, the actual literal house that the hamiltons lived in when they moved uptown. (there's a song about it. it's super sad. go listen to it.)  it's been moved a few times as the city changed around it, but it currently rests on a piece of land that was actually part of the original estate!

we followed the transport recommendation on the website, taking the m3 bus from grand central all the way up to st. nicholas park.  we arrived around 11:40, which worked well because there's a free-for-all-tour at 12, meaning you wander at will and a ranger stands around to answer your questions.  we chose this over the guided tour because...well, we know the musical so well, we already have a darn good idea of his life story.

there are quite a few objects and furnishings original to the house, including his books and the pianoforte.

one of my favorite details is the fact that they stripped the walls and used an expert paint analysis to recreate the original colors!

the park outside is also beautiful and quiet...

in all, this was thoroughly worth the visit.  it was surreal and oddly emotional to realize that the bones of the house were...the very bones of the hamiltons' home.  finally, if you haven't listened through the musical soundtrack (warning: language), check out the playlist below!

edited to add: if you want to see a video account of our day, check out lindsey's vlog!

Friday, March 25, 2016

good stuff #7

1. this fm transmitter and old, old ipod.  so that the entire world on my short commute can know that I am super hip and cool (not).

2. this new bedding, because I'm forcing it to motivate me to make my bed every morning.  because that's what grown-ups do, right?

3. the fact that this purple shamrock folds up tight at night and then flares open to the sunlight in the morning.

4. this month's playlist, oh yeah.

more good stuff:
 - this is incredible.
 - so so so so so so tempted by this like I can't even tell you I think I'm gonna have to sign up ugh (p.s. you can give a few months as a gift so the real question here is how much do you love me?).
 - if you don't already read braden's serial, check it out here. (disclaimer: rated PG-13ish for violence and maybe language, I can't remember).
 - I crocheted a couple of these and it's a decent pattern.

what have you been loving lately?


Thursday, March 24, 2016

throwback photos #6

spring of 2013: more freelensing (airplant) and the acquisition of the most wonderful book (recommended to me by sarah) and the running of horses in the south of tennessee (10/10 would recommend to a friend).

(more throwback photos)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

things I've learned lately about writing

hey kids.

let's have a quick chat about writing.  I'm sitting in my precious haven of blessed joy and company starbucks, procrastinating homework and waiting for an email that'll get me on the teaching schedule, fantasy-apartment-"hunting" in l.a., and hoping the cool kids club will show up.  

I have a lot of thoughts about writing.  they're a bit random, they're a bit repetitive maybe, and I may have even posted about some of them here before.  but yesterday I did some writing, and I've had a lot of discussions about writing in the recent past, and I figured I'd collect some of my most forceful thoughts.

1. first of all, let me share a couple quotes from this book by flannery o'connor (more on this book in a later post and also, thank you to the dear who mailed me this!)... 
"Technique in the minds of many is something rigid, something like a formula that you impose on the material; but in the best stories it is something organic, something that grows out of the material[....]"
this is something I've been realizing for years.  when you are young, in the "logic" stage of your education, if you were classically trained, you learn structure.  structure, structure, structure.  you need this, I agree!  but the disconcerting, tear-filled, anxiety-inducing harangue that is the evolution from teenage writer to adult writer seems to be all about this realization: that you don't need to follow a code.  that you can hone your ear and develop your taste - and your experiences as you grow through the world can inform you more about the innate nature of the story you want to tell.  the major distinction I see between the friends around me is whether they have learned to stop regurgitating the same four tips you'll read everywhere online about "how to write a good story the right way."
"People have a habit of saying, 'What is the theme of your story?' [...] Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction."
 I am not trying to say that guidance/education/structure is bad!  I can tell you that taking a class on structure changed. my. life. with complete honesty.  but I agree with flannery here:
"The teacher can try to weed out what is positively bad, and this should be the aim of the whole college.  Any discipline can help your writing: logic, mathematics, theology, and of course and particularly drawing.  Anything that helps you to see, anything that makes you look."
I can back up those statements, as can most of you, I believe, with a little help from a wikipedia page about your favorite author...some of the best writers and storytellers out there are those abhorrent, disgustingly (sarcasm) talented individuals who seem to do all-of-the-arts.  this is a more extreme version of something I've said for years: that if you want to improve your prose, read poetry.  write poetry.  listen to songs; absorb the lyrical.  look at beautiful things.  embrace all the details you can.

here is the other thing, and it's going to sound like I'm ragging on critique groups, but I'm not, I just want you all to remember this: you. know. your. book.  

you know more about it than anyone else.  you love it more than anyone else.  you feel it more than anyone else.  you can get help of all sorts - maybe you need someone to catch awkward sentences, or to bounce ideas around, or to nip cliches in the bud, sure.  but that process is all about what helps and what hinders.  if someone is helping you become a better writer - and you will know this when you see it - then keep them (on your editing team, not like, in your life or whatever, haha, you can be friends with them!).  if someone is not, whether because they're just not your audience, or they want all books to be exactly the kind of book they like, or because they're hyperactively creative and grab onto ideas but they just don't have the same vision that you do?   don't be afraid to cut that voice loose.  you're never going to please everyone.  the important thing is that you know what you're going for, and you can trust your judgment to distinguish between you-failing-to-communicate and them-failing-to-listen.  if you have to let your idea ferment in the back of your mind for eight years in order to really immerse yourself in that vibe and let it grow naturally?  do that. 

my final note is the one that is so belabored into the ground but because it is worth it.  


practice, practice, practice.  butcher it.  it doesn't matter.  but be writing, if you really care about it, every single day.  for me, this meant that for the spring semester of my senior year, I wrote a hundred words a day, even if they sucked.  even at the end of the day, exhausted, sad, can write a paragraph.  it's just one paragraph.  and yes, it sucked! and yes, in the rewrite, I'm reworking nearly all of it!  but I can tell you right now, I wouldn't be here, in the rewrite, if I hadn't done that.  in the course of writing that semester, and the summer after that, my work improved so much.  whether it's good or not, time will tell when the beta readers get their hands on it, but at least it is a hundred lightyears better than it was, in my opinion.  a hundred words, friends.  that's it.

"but lydia, if I write a hundred words a day, it'll take me approximately four billion years to finish my book!"

well, sure, okay.  protip: if you want to do more than a hundred words in one day, let yourself [insert wink here].  some days, especially after practice, you'll write a lot more.  for example: when I started, the first month I wrote about 100-200 words a day.  after a bit, it turned out to usually be more like 400 in a day.  by the time it was the summer through to when I started grad school?  it was a 900-2000 words situation.  now you know my secret.  

back at the beginning, I said "quick chat about writing," which is hilarious because this is paragraphs later.  but.  I hope this makes sense.  I hope it might be helpful to some people.  maybe I just need to remind myself of it.  at any rate, that's what I think these days.


Monday, March 21, 2016

record feature: trouble will find me

you may or may not know that I love the national.  I love basically everything they do.  a lot of their songs are really important to me, and you can take that as all kinds of signals about my personality (e.g. gosh lydia you're so emo) if you want. 

I love the entire "trouble will find me" album.  this one was actually a gift from my brother for christmas, but definitely an excellent pick, because when I'm record shopping I try to only get albums that I tend to listen to straight-through.  obviously, in the age of the mp3, most music can be cherrypicked track-by-track.  when I find an album that rolls smoothly and has a consistent style and dare I say a narrative? it's a winner. 

these songs are...well, quite literally all sad in one way or another.  the album comes as a two-disk set, but I'm sorry to report that mine are badly-pressed.  from reviews on amazon, it looks like a common issue, though not universal, which is a real bummer...  so be ye warned.  I still love to play them, for my part.  I feel like the vinyl version has a nice underground warmth that might be tinned out of the digital tracks, depending on the speakers you're listening through (like sub-par laptop speakers), but I'm also a vinyl n00b and generally enthusiastic.

if you haven't given the songs themselves a listen, and you'd like to, I'm embedding the spotify playlist below.  bear in mind a few of the songs feature PG-13 language, in moderation.  I hope you like it!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

don't go to nyc on st. paddy's (the met)

the metropolitan museum of art, also known as I fully intended to take snarky snapchat pictures of art with silly captions but I ended up nerding out and being genuinely absorbed instead of sarcastic whoops.

we took our time getting into the city, since it had turned out to be such a long day being there from approximately 10:30am to 8:42pm... which in retrospect, we shouldn't have?  in planning our visits around the weather, we had overlooked the fact that thursday was st. patrick's day...  so, on the train at an unfortunate stop only halfway into our journey, we were descended upon by a plague of drunk sorority girls.  and when I say "we took our time," I only mean "we left at 10:19am" so it was still very much too early for that kind of noise.

we survived the trip (barely), forging the impenetrable bond of solidarity that can only be formed between silent, suffering, sober people in close quarters with...non-silent, non-suffering, non-sober people nearby.  one woman got off the train before penn station and looked at the rest of us in the car and mouthed, "good luck!" as she bolted.  

but then we were free!  and we muddled through way too many people on the sidewalks for way too long, but the sun was shining and the little bands in their tour buses were disembarking in preparation for the parade, and when we finally reached central park, the herd thinned somewhat.  

a walk through/along the park brought us to the met, which is beautiful inside and out, and there was absolutely zero wait time, and we got our tickets and headed on in there.  (once again, admission is suggested-price and you can choose what to give.)

I don't have a huge amount of experience with art museums, but I consider nelson atkins a very good egg.  the met is even more enjoyable.  in particular, I'm a big fan of the way they've taken entire rooms/chapels/what have you and installed them into the museum, with backlit (at times, stained-glass) windows and cordoned walkways that let you stand in  the room and get the full experience.  

my favorite section is definitely european paintings, 1250-1800, on the second floor.  there were so many icons that just took me right back to my honors community days.  

my brother's favorite section - I take the liberty of assuming by virtue of the fact he stayed there most of the time - was the arms and armor section on the first floor.  the architecture, lighting, ambiance...presentation of everything in the museum is really stunning.  I don't know if you can tell by these pictures how much I appreciated the huge facades, the complete transplanted patios, the naturally-lit atria involved.  

this courtyard in the american wing (also first floor) was my favorite place to sit for awhile and try to subtly eat a pretzel hidden in my sleeve.  inside the "house" they had reconstructed entire rooms of incredible old furniture and decor.  

I think all in all, we spent maybe three hours wandering.  after the hour-long walk from penn (through the middle of the park to avoid crowds), we were already pretty tired.  

it's a very quiet, peaceful place, with lots of room to sit or stand and ponder, and excellent little blurbs on all the plaques that are lots of fun to read.  (in the picture below, the lady in the gold dress in the mid-left painting was described as being "of great beauty...but easy virtue..." for example.)

in the end, I returned to the european paintings and spent a lot of time with reynolds and lawrence, which was extremely pleasant.  after that, we sat on the big steps in the sun for a bit.  the crowds had dissolved, and later on, as we sat in a starbucks, it rained a little.  by the time we walked back to the train station, the streets were nearly empty, with mostly doormen standing around amiably or hosing down front walks, people walking dogs and/or children on scooters, and central park carriage horses snorting feed at pigeons. 

we got dinner near times square on our way out, and met the nicest, most polite and appreciative, most absolutely hammered canadian on the train home.  he asked to sit with us, and a few minutes later, turns to us and says, "I'm sorry, excuse me, is this the train to...long...island?"  

well.  yes.  I mean, yes it is.

when he got off, the guy in front of us said "track eight, buddy!  oyster bay!" and the canadian said, "yeah man! the bay! that's right!" and the guy said to us, "20% chance he makes it there." he was a very nice guy, and all he wanted was to dunk his head in a sink of ice water.  "big sink, lots of ice...weird thing to want, I know, man, right?"  I hope he made it home okay, because he was extraordinarily good-natured and very amusing.  

all right!  that's all of my nyc scoop for this week.  next weekend there will be a trip to hamilton grange, so stay tuned for that.  in the meantime, however, we'll be back to our usual (quiet, nerdy, predominantly houseplant) programming.