19 December 2011


Last night, I had the unusual experience of not knowing what to do with myself. My schoolwork for the semester is finished, and I'm taking a break from academic stuff for the week to let my mind recuperate before I get going on the thesis again (it's the only thing left between me and graduating right now, so I'm determined to complete it this semester). One of my best friends, who usually comes over on Sundays, is visiting family for the holidays, so our weekly dinner and a children's movie didn't happen.

So J. and I felt a little lost last night. I finished a Christmas present. We watched an episode of Firefly (Shindig, fantastic just on the basis Kaylee's dress, not mentioning many other great parts of the episode), played a couple rounds of Ascension (I won), and I got the fruitcake and Christmas puddings started. But the evening still felt weird, like something was missing. No stress from deadlines, maybe.

Today was a little less weird, since there were things to do, but I still feel up in the air. Like reality has been briefly suspended and will come crashing back down to surprise me.

In the meantime, I guess I'll keep knitting.

16 December 2011

My to-do list for this semester has shrunk quite dramatically. I have two things left to finish. Crazy, right? A week ago it was a much longer list.

It's a good feeling, being awake in the middle of the night, working on a paper. Whenever I finish a long paper, I have this weird exhilarated reaction despite the sleep deprivation. Maybe that's what it feels like to have given birth. Also, I may be naturally slightly nocturnal, so being awake in the middle of the night is pretty great on its own (pretty strange for a woman who was afraid of the dark for years when she was a kid and still can't sleep without a light on when alone at night).

Something about the end of the semester usually means that I'm sick. Last spring, I went to a final accompanied by a box of tissues. Today I woke up way early, having gone to bed late and not slept much, because of this cold that I caught from J. Unable to go back to sleep, I managed to finish three assignments, do dishes, go to the doctor to get a prescription renewal, and do a load of laundry, all before noon. This is pretty awesome for me, since mornings and I aren't friends.

I've been working on the paper for a lot of the afternoon and evening. My process with papers is different than my process with fiction. With fiction, I do a lot of drafting and revising. With papers, I do a lot of outlining, note-taking, reading, and thinking, so by the time I sit down to write the paper, the writing itself isn't too hard because I already know most of what I want to say.

I typically don't follow the advice I give tutoring students: get it done early, let it sit, read over it again, have someone else read over it. I wish I did. I'm not organized enough in my personal life to do that (unless it's my thesis, in which case a constant state of revision is pretty normal), and I never have been (hence my untidy home and the fact that I have no idea what I'm serving for dinner tomorrow).

And yet this disorder works for me. Having to rearrange things once in a while works. Not sure why.

12 December 2011

Sometimes it seems like I do better at concentrating in the middle of the night, in the silence of our apartment. J. is asleep in the next room, and the only sounds I hear are the occasional creaks of the heater and my fingers tapping on the keyboard (music can be distracting). My cup of tea has long since gone cold, and I haven't eaten in hours.

I'm taking a break from a project to write for myself for a little while. I'll work on the project until I'm sleepy, and then head to bed. To sleep. When I get up I'll work on the project until it is complete.

We ventured into the mall today, armed with an HBC gift card. It was less scary than I'd anticipated, possibly because it was a Monday evening. My last memories of the mall at Christmas were several years ago, and all I remember was chaos, and needing to lie down afterward because I was dizzy. Large spaces with lots of people still make me a bit dizzy, but thankfully, there weren't too many people there.

When we emerged from the mall, we had a food processor (which I've been longing for, for months--J. said I looked quite the feminist, carrying a food processor with a big smile on my face--I may be a feminist but why that should stop me from making hummus, I don't know), and new underwear, which we both badly need. Not that that's really something to write about on a blog. I mean, seriously, underwear? I must be stuck for ideas if that's what I'm prattling on about. As an aside, has anyone noticed the pricing for men's versus women's underwear? We both got the packaged kind, and his cost quite a bit more than mine, for fewer pairs (one package of 6 for women's was less than a package of 3 for men). J. asserts that it's because his involve more fabric.

On a different note, I have a food processor! I am positively looking forward to making hummus on Wednesday for the Fraser Valley Knitting Guild Christmas party. I don't have to splash partially blended chickpeas all over the kitchen this time. I can try chopping chocolate in it next week when I'm doing Christmas baking and cooking. It's going to be fun. And now I have to figure out how to fit it in the cupboards somewhere (reorganizing the kitchen's on my to-do list next week).

I sound absurdly domestic in this post, and I haven't even talked about my knitting. Oh well. Back to the language project write-up.

03 December 2011

when distraction is fruitful

This is what happens when someone gives me fruit:

There is jam. And jelly. I used to be confused about the difference between the two, but it turns out that jam has actual pieces of fruit in it, whereas jelly is just made of fruit juice. Believe it or not, these are both derived from the same batch of fruit.

My friend Donna has a quince tree, and this year, she gave me some. Quince need to be picked after the first frost, and because they are very hard, letting them ripen is not a bad idea (turns out the process is called "bletting" and it's the same thing you have to do with persimmons--essentially letting them rot until they're ripe enough to eat). I didn't take a picture of the fruit, but they look much like yellow pears. And they smell heavenly, a combination of floral and pear scents (as quince is in the rose family, this is not unsurprising).

I parboiled the fruit so they would be easier to cut up, and then peeled and chopped them. After that, I boiled the chopped fruit like potatoes until it was soft, drained off the water into a separate bowl, and cooked the fruit into jam. That's how tough these things are. I stirred the jam in between reading and trying to work on a project, and then processed it for ten minutes in a hot water canner, which is my standard procedure with jam. The most complicated part of the process is waiting for the jam to cook to the right consistency. I usually don't add extra pectin, so it takes time.

Later that evening, I started on the jelly. I found a recipe so I could figure out the proportion of sugar to juice, and then started it cooking. I think it took over an hour before it was where I wanted it, which let me take advantage of one of quince's other properties.

The tannins in quince, as they break down, render the white fruit pink, and then red. The jam is in the early stages of this, where it's more pinkish-brown (it's supposed to grow more pink with time, even in the jar). But the jelly is crimson.

Even though I know they came from the same fruits, I am still surprised when I look at the jars. Jam-making, as a process, is endlessly exciting for me. It's always a joy when I come out with jars of jam at the end. It feels like magic.

Perhaps it is.