Friday, January 29, 2010

Pictures and potatoes

My pain is your gain. I'm still a bit overwhelmed by the pre-defense workload I'm juggling, but I caught a cold which has sent me to bed for a few days. I'm just tired enough that real work seems like too much effort, but a blog post is do-able.

My parents celebrated their fortieth anniversary recently. (Wow. Forty years is a long time. That's all I can say.) Their gift was a family portrait, which is something we've been meaning to do for a while. The picture below does not adequately demonstrate how much effort went into getting eight people to the studio, in non-clashing clothes, and smiling. (I will add: the photographers were pros at getting kids to smile. Tickley feather dusters work miracles)

This particular studio can print small-ish photographs immediately, so I could take mine home. But the larger size that my mother wanted took a few weeks to print. They called my sister-in-law to say they were ready to be picked up, and then disaster struck. The photography studio, which is part of a national chain, went bankrupt and immediately closed the doors at all 200 stores. Thus, my parent's portrait is still locked in a studio, irretrievable. My sister-in-law has been vigilant and has even talked some of the lawyers on the case. Hopefully we will eventually claim the photo.

I recently had friends over for dinner and decided to make potatoes Anna again. This recipe, from Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking (I forget which volume) is classically French in the sense that it is all about the technique, rather than the ingredients. In fact, there are only three ingredients: potatoes, salt, and butter. But you have to clarify the butter, slice the potatoes extra thin, and then layer them in a hot cast-iron pan. The end result is a crispy-on-the-edge, melting-in-the-middle potato cake.

And now back to our regularly scheduled thesis-writing...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Musings on the near future (plus a recipe)

I’ve been a bit lax with the blog lately, and that’s unlikely to change for a while. Every time I think about writing a post, I figure that I really should be spending that time working on papers. The day of reckoning approaches, you know.

We have set a defense date, and it’s twelve weeks from today. Sometimes that day seems very far away: look how much I’ve done! It’s just tidying up at this point! And sometimes that days seems very close: ten weeks from today I have to turn in my dissertation to my committee and I still need to write two small chapters and edit four chapters. Oh, and work on the side project (which I enjoy very much but doesn’t directly contribute to my dissertation) that actually pays my salary.

I still don’t know where I’ll be living (and working) five months from now, but I’m reasonably confident that I will be employed, and that’s comfort enough right now.

In unrelated news, I made a stellar pasta last week. I was making homemade noodles, so I didn’t want to have to spend too much time on the toppings. This recipe, with slow roasted tomatoes and goat cheese, was excellent. It seemed silly to buy fresh basil when I have almost a half gallon of pesto in the freezer, but that was my only substitution (along with the fresh pasta, of course).

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


That was what was stamped on Andrew's green card application today, after our final interview. Today was the big day, the day when we would finally found out if all the fees, time filling out forms, and paying more fees was worth it. We woke up early so that we could drive into Baltimore with lots of time to spare. There were dire warnings that if we did not show up for the appointment (which they scheduled at time convenient for them) our application would be considered withdrawn. Before we arrived, we admitted to each other that we were both a little nervous. Not 'taking your qualifier' or 'meeting your future mother-in-law' nervous, but the anticipatory feeling was definitely there.

I don't think the government is actually attempting to create a tense atmosphere, but they have succeeded. Before you are allowed to enter a federal building, you have to go through security. No problem. Except they didn't have nearly enough screeners, so a line builds up outside the building. By the time we left, there were over fifty people standing outside in the below-freezing weather, waiting to be allowed into the door. So that they could wait in line to be screened. And then wait in line to be called into a room, to hear their fate.

Andrew forgot about a pocketknife that he carries on his key chain, which didn't help speed our progress through security. As the security guard explained that Andrew would have to take the knife to the car or at least out of the building, we discovered that we have different approaches to dealing with authority. When things get tense, Andrew tends to challenge authority, whereas I tend to become the ingratiating supplicant.

The interview wasn't too bad, although Andrew misremembered my birthday. The official didn't make any outward comment (she was looking at the correct answer on the form) but I was cringing inside, thinking, "We've failed!" And then, in answer to her question about how our relationship progressed, I mentioned the later part of our dating past when I "frequently harassed him to marry me." I didn't mean for it to come out quite like that.

But now we're done! The official stamped APPROVED in big red letters on the form, and when the green card arrives in the mail there might be a bottle of champagne, waiting to celebrate it.