August 2010


A new line item for the list — and this time, it’s the first item about cutting something out:

* Try to stay offline on the weekends.

There’ve been a lot of articles recently about how computer use fragments your thinking or disinvolves you from the world around you or prevents you from effectively sleeping or… I’ve been thinking about them more and more. I do fall into the “let me just surf the web” trap when it comes to trying to find something to do, and I do that more often than I’d like.

Ten years go, before the Web got as big as it is now, I did a lot more. I wrote a hell of a lot more. It was harder to do research – and I would never want to give up the access to information that I have now — but there weren’t as many web pages to goof off on, and I had more brainspace to focus on what it was I was writing.

But today my thinking is a lot more fragmented, and my writing voice is noticeably more…mundane. I don’t take the time to find the right words any more — mainly because it’s too easy to just write something half-assed and then go surf some.

So I’m thinking that I need to get into a “web-free weekend” habit. Unless I am researching something for myself, I will simply not log on to the web on the weekends. Check email, sure; but the New York Times online and Metafilter and IMDB and Facebook and Ravelry and all the other time sinks I’ve been playing on? No more. Save that for the weekdays. Take back some of that time to go see movies rather than read about them, to knit rather than hit up Ravelry, to see friends in real life rather than on Facebook.

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I think I just found the Master’s Program for me.

It’s tough for an older student to go back to school; it’s got to be a serious commitment. And — it’s one I have neither time nor money for. Plus, I hadn’t quite made up my mind what I would get a Master’s in.

However – I think I’ve found something that could cover all bases quite nicely. Columbia University has a really incredibly intensive crash course in the publishing industry — which lasts only six weeks, and only costs $5,000.

And…most importantly, it’s something I could see myself doing. Maybe not this year or next, but…very soon.

The past couple weeks ended up being my cat’s last. It was right to stop and just be with him, at the end.

It’s just as right to now be getting ready to turn back towards life, so I’m back in this. And one of the things I may be doing soon is getting going on the t-shirt quilt pillow sham.

My biggest instinct now, firstly, is to do a massive clean of the whole apartment — my roommate earned canonization by starting me off (she cleaned the entire living room the day after he died, partly to just do something helpful and partly because she says she generally does a massive clean before her grad school semesters start anyway), and I’m going to be doing a lot of haul-stuff-out-of-closets-and-figure-out-where-they-can-go-instead over the next few days. Including — finally setting up a storage system for all of my yarn, and all of the other random craft crap I’ve picked up.

So really, there’s no excuse any more for me to not finally just cut down the t-shirts I’m using so that is at least started. Then I’ll only have a few squares of fabric staring me in the face waiting to find a sewing machine, rather than entire t-shirts.

Unless, you know, my roommate happens to magically produce a sewing machine with her Miraculous Fairy Wand or whatever she seems to have. But something tells me to look elsewhere first.

So this coming Sunday, I had a reservation for a car to take myself out to Long Island and finally see the damn Perseids. I made it about a month ago.

Last night, I cancelled it. My cat is just too ill — it’s possible that Sunday or Monday, I may need to have the vet come to help him let go — and I don’t want to leave him if that’s the case.

It’s another delay. But, the Perseids will be back next year. My cat won’t.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. –John Lennon

Astute readers (all…what, two of you?) probably have noticed I haven’t said much in here in the past couple days. This isn’t because I’ve stopped the pursuit of the life list, though; it’s just a pause.

There are times when to pursue the goals, but there are times when responsibilities and life itself takes precedence. In my case, hospice care for a beloved cat is the priority now; providing care and affection through the last days of a long life. And there are rewards here, to be sure; all the Perseids streaking through my apartment couldn’t compare to the gratitude I felt the other night when he tried to feebly climb up on the couch with me, to curl up in his usual spot in the crooks of my knees, for what could be the last time ever.

The list is there; the world’s out there and it’s not going anywhere. The list will give me something to do after he’s gone. The last time I was affected by death, I was comforted by my then-boyfriend who advised me to “turn your face towards life when you can”, and he’s right. The list is the way I am going to move towards that. But for now, life itself is the priority, and staying put in it. There are still small things I can do – I can continue reading another of those 1001 books, or cut up one of the t-shirts while he sleeps — but it may also be better to just sit with a little dying cat as he naps with me, and let the pursuit of the goals go by for a while. Because if you’re too busy chasing things, you don’t get to see what things look like as you’re running through them — and there’s good to be found there too.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’ll miss it. –Ferris Bueller

Another new list item —

* Compete in one of Matt Timm’s food takedowns again – and win.

I first heard of Matt Timms’ takedowns a couple years ago, when I first moved to Brooklyn — I got a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, because I’m just plain addicted to their annual cherry blossom festival, and as such started attending a lot more events; including their annual fall Chili Pepper Festival. Along with the other events on the chili pepper program was a chili cookoff — overseen by a tall lanky guy with wild hair, featuring five people dishing out little Dixie cups of their creations to all comers so we could vote.

I was charmed enough to stick around for when they announced the winners to see what they won — they got a little certificate and bragging rights, basically. The winner had also been in other such cookoffs Matt Timms ran, I learned — Timms wasn’t part of the garden staff, he was someone who just threw chili cookoffs for fun, mainly at Brooklyn bars.

This was pretty intriguing, and I signed up for the mailing list.

And then I learned they were expanding the kinds of cookoffs. First I heard of a cookie bakeoff…then a fondue cookoff…and then, a year ago, I heard about a bacon cookoff.

Something made me sign up to be in it, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to actually make. I wanted something that was fairly unique — something involving candied bacon in some way — but every time I came up with an idea (bacon peanut brittle, bacon candy popcorn) I would go online and learn someone else already had done it. So in the end, I just took a cookie recipe I’ve made before to great success, involving apples, nuts, and a caramel topping, and swapped the nuts out for candied bacon bits and called it a day.

When I showed up, I set up between two other competitors — on my left was a guy who’d made a Sloppy Joe kind of thing involving lots of bacon mixed in with the ground beef, and a sort of cream sauce drizzled on top of each sandwich which had been spiked with bacon salt. To my right was a guy who had cured his own bacon, and told me how he built the smoker in his back yard in Park Slope and smoked it for three days.

I just nodded, impressed, and thought to myself, “well, I’m CLEARLY not going to win.”

But it was wildly fun. The turnout was one of the hugest ones they’d ever had, with about 400 people showing up, including many members of the media. A reporter from Good Morning America was even there with a camera crew, and stopped by my stand for a few seconds to get a shot of herself thrusting one of my cookies at the camera and chirping, “Caramel Apple Bacon Cookies, folks!” while I just smiled knowingly.

They let the media folks hit us up first before letting in the crowds of taste-testers. And then it was a total blur of people shuffling by and picking up a cookie each. Some took a bite right away and nodded thoughtfully, some saved it to eat after the pile of other things already on their plates. In addition to my cookies and the other guys’ meat things, there were bacon truffles, bacon tamales, bacon tacos, bacon cake, bacon lettuce Thai spring rolls…one taster even told me about bacon bourbon ice cream, saying that that ice cream and my cookie would make a killer ice cream sandwich.

In the end, as I guessed, I did not win. But the ice cream won the popular vote (and a local blogger got the recipe for her coverage of the event, so I can make that sandwich).

The Takedowns are becoming a huge thing, now — the winners now get a bit more swag, and — blessedly — also get some help procuring the amount of food they need for their creations. I wanted to try the grits takedown they had recently, but life and time got in the way.

But I think I need to head back and try another time.

New addition to the list!

* I want to learn how to ride a horse.

Okay, I admit that this is fueled firstly by the horse-mad phase I went through when I was eleven, and secondly by watching Lord Of The Rings again. But there’s bound to be a way I can learn that.