(Subjective) Truths (Sort of) Universally Acknowledged

A Tale of Love and Friendship…and Victorian Literature

Post the Thirty-Second: Wherein I Drink Ambrosia With the Gods

February19

Hi everyone! How are you? I hope everyone had a relaxing February break…or as relaxing as a two day break at the beginning of prelim season can possibly be, haha. But I shouldn’t complain: I had a lovely long weekend with the miniscule knight and parental units, watching TV, breaking my diet left and right, and generally just being a lazy bum! And now I’m ready to get my head back in the game.

I know that I’ve set a precedence for not apologizing for my absence from the blogasphere, but I do kind of want to explain myself. I never really make specific New Year’s resolutions; instead, I pick a word that represents a principle or value that I feel I’ve been neglecting, and then I try to live by it to the best of my ability. This year’s word is “presence.” This is my last semester of undergrad, and while I’m really, REALLY excited to be starting my job in August, I know there’s going to be a learning curve, which, considering my over-achiever personality, will probably cause a lot of stress and anxiety on my part. In order to make the most out of this year, and just my life in general, I am going to try and be more present, in my schoolwork/work-work and in my relationships. Of course, it’s only February, and presence is not something that comes naturally to me…so while I’ve been present in my activism and in my family and friend circle, I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog. So, in the name of presence, I will do my best to remedy this situation!

My blogpost today is about a place that is very near and dear to my heart. It is not only home to some of the best soups and sandwiches on campus, but it has also served as my social hub, as a meet-up place for those very dear friends who don’t happen to live ten feet away from me. Behold, lovely readers, the Temple of Zeus!

That's my friend at the cash register, by the way! Photo credit: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/05/temple-zeus-dishes-out-atmosphere

That’s my friend at the cash register, by the way! Photo credit: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/05/temple-zeus-dishes-out-atmosphere

I have been grabbing lunch from Zeus since my freshman year. I knew I should have been trying to spend my BRBs, which my parents had so kindly paid for before I even got to campus…but I had reasons, people! Very good reasons!

Temple of Zeus is in the basement of Goldwin Smith Hall, which is where most of my classes are held, so it’s super convenient to be able to trot downstairs and grab lunch, especially in the winter. The decor may not be the best, but it has all sorts of cozy nooks for times when I’m planning to eat alone. When I am flying solo, I can sit next to the plaque commemorating the spot where poet Archie Ammons used to like to sit .Of course, I barely ever get to play lone wolf, considering how many people I run into in Zeus on a daily basis. Just today, I crashed my friends’ poetry workshop while I ate my curried sweet pea soup and large tossed salad. I really appreciate how Zeus has allowed me to keep in touch with friends who live at the very end of Collegetown; I don’t always want to make the trek from North Campus, but we can always meet in between for some delicious food!

Which brings me to the next point. The reason I decided to dole out the cash at Zeus when I was still on a meal plan was not only because the prices are crazy reasonable, but also because the food is so very good. Zeus serves the best soups on campus, hands down. My favorite is the Thai carrot, but I love all of them to bits. (Also, I didn’t know that all the recipes were online until I started doing research for this article! Guess what I’m going to feed Cornflower and myself this upcoming week??!!) To be fair, more visited lunch places like Cascadelli and Trillium are fine, but you don’t get the same quality. At Zeus, I know I’m eating relatively healthily, although those pesky scones from Ithaca bakery seem to always find their way into my grain-free, refined-sugar-free diet. Ooops!

It might seem strange to you to wax sentimental about a basement cafe, but Temple of Zeus was also the first place I ate when I was visiting the campus with my mom as a prospective student. I had just come from a meeting with my dean, and a million things were swirling around in my head. I was torn between Cornell and some other small liberal arts schools, and I didn’t really know what to do. The homey atmosphere and the tuna fish sandwich (with a pickle! I love pickles!) calmed me down and convinced me that I could possibly make my way here at this frighteningly large school. So yes, I am going to miss Temple of Zeus dearly when I graduate. But in the meantime, I’mma going to make an appointment this Friday with me, myself, and some Thai carrot soup!

 

 

 

 

 

Post the Thirty-First: Wherein My Blog-a-thon is Over!

December25

Merry Christmas. everyone! I hope that those of you who do celebrate had a wonderful time with friends and/or family, and that those of you who don’t celebrate had a wonderful December 25th. I had a very lovely day: I was able to get some thesis reading in, and I made delicious soup and salad and an ah-maaaaazing grain-free chocolate-raspberry loaf! It shall be my breakfast tomorrow, mmmmmm…

Today also marks the end of my blog-a-thon. It’s been tons of fun and also, quite frankly, a little bit exhausting. It’s funny: when I don’t have to write every day, I have ideas pouring out of my ears, but as soon as I have to produce material every day, I spend a good twenty minutes in front of my computer going, “Oh boy. Now how do I entertain the crowds?”

But it has been extremely rewarding to write every day, even if it’s been about something seemingly fluffy and silly, like my post yesterday. I get so caught up in school work during the semester that I forget how much I enjoy writing and how much I have to say! It definitely has made me want to get back to my novel. I don’t know how I’ll make time for that, along with SJP planning and thesis-writing, but I think it’s important enough that I will try to write at least a couple of pages before I head back to Cornell.

And that’s not to say that I won’t be updating here! I probably won’t do it as frequently as I have for the past ten days, but I will be working on new material–not just posts, but new pages too! If you have any suggestions as to what you’d like to see more of on this blog, please do post in the comments!

I think that’s around about it from me for now. We’re getting our new oven and stove installed tomorrow, yaaay! But that also means that we have to be up by 7 am tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. I hope I still have it in me! Wish me luck, ahaha :P

Well, a merry Christmas to you all!

by posted under Randomness | 3 Comments »    

Things I Like: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

December24

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas eve, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you’re having a wonderful December 24th!

I for one had a lovely December 24th. I got my hair cut (my ends are no longer dry and crunchy, yaaaay!), watched the first episode of the seventh season of Doctor Who, finished re-reading Kim, found a recipe for grain-free chocolate chip cookies (AAAAAH, I CAN’T WAIT TO MAKE THEM AND EAT HALF THE DOUGH IN THE PROCESS!!!!) and had delicious tacos for dinner.

And then my mom, my sister and I watched the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility, and all was right with the world.

How do I explain my love for Sense and Sensibility? Well, it is a Jane Austen novel, after all, and I have loved Jane Austen since I was a wee one of thirteen. My parents were fed up with my incessant re-re-re-re-reading of Harry Potter, and decided it was time for me to grow up a bit, so they handed me Pride and Prejudice and I went on my merry way! Pride and Prejudice is my number one, of course, but Sense and Sensibility is pretty awesome too.

For those of you who don’t know, Sense and Sensibility is about three sisters: practical and level-headed Elinor Dashwood, sentimental and romantic Marianne Dashwood, and rough-and-tumble Margaret Dashwood. The three girls’ fate takes a turn for the worst when their father dies and is forced to leave his entire estate to their horrible stepbrother John and his even more horrible wife Fanny. John and Fanny considerately move into Norland, the family home where the Dashwoods have happily lived for many years, as soon as they possibly can. But though they are thoroughly unpleasant and awful, when Fanny’s sweet and unassuming younger brother, Edward, comes to say, Elinor slowly but surely falls in love with him. Unfortunately, the Dashwoods move to Barton Cottage, where Marianne meets John Willoughby, who seems to be the man of her dreams. But is he really who he says he is? (Answer: nope!) Will Edward ever come visit them at the cottage? (Answer: yes, but it leaves Elinor with no clear answers as to his feelings for her. sadly.) And most importantly, will Fanny stop being such an insufferable buttwipe? (Answer: if only!)

By now, you’re probably wondering why on earth I love this book to bits. After all, the plot and the questions it poses are rather…hum-drum. So here are my reasons, in a delicious little list, just for you!

1) The characters: Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, I relate the most to Elinor. She feels deeply and is very passionate and artistic, but is compelled to hide her feelings, as she is essentially the head of the family after their father dies. I’m not the head of the family, but as the oldest child and as someone who is generally pretty responsible, I do often have to put on a brave face for the sake of others. Her feelings for Edward are no less powerful and sincere for her downplaying them, however, and she is capable of incredible compassion and kindness towards those she loves. Her love for her impulsive younger sister, despite their differences, is something I can relate to as well. My sister is not as melancholy-prone as Marianne, thank the Lord, but she does have the endearing, if somewhat embarrassing, habit of being unable to hide her feelings. So basically, my sister and I are Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. As we sat through the movie tonight, I could totally imagine us saying some of the things our respective characters said!

2) The looooooove: I feel like I should be all “Oh my God, isn’t it awful how the working class is completely invisible in Jane Austen’s novels and how work is synonymous with slavery and how these men and women never do anything for themselves and blah blah blah,” but you know what? Even revolutionaries need a little love. And Jane knows how to warm the cockles of your heart. Even though I am a romantic, I get a little bit jaded when I watch sappy movies (please don’t hate me, but I really don’t like The Notebook). Everyone’s experience with love is different; maybe for some people, love really does mean being a bird if the other person is a bird (what does that mean, anyways??!), but my experience with love has been a little more down to earth. You’re happy when in that person’s company and you might cry a little if it doesn’t work out, but whatever the end result, love makes you a better person. Sense and Sensibility captures that quiet intensity of love so beautifully and reminds us that what we think we want isn’t always what’s best for us.

3) The costumes: I know they’re not everyone’s thing, but I love Regency-style clothing! (Not so much for the men…I would think their calves would get cold in those silly stockings.) The dresses are so understated and elegant, and all the actresses in this particular version pulled them off wonderfully. I know that sometimes the Empire-waist can look a bit wonky, but I honestly think that has more to do with the costume designers than with the actual style. This version does a good job of maintaining that waistline without, ahem, getting in the way of anyone’s bustline. The houses filmed in are also beautiful and, as far as I can tell (I am far from expert!) really reflect the period.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little installment! If you like Jane Austen, this is a fun film to watch; although the dialogue isn’t stellar by any means, the actors make the best of it. Also, Dan Stevens. How can you say no to Dan Stevens?!

Photo credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-w1w8bR7Od7Q/TY9xNnSdWfI/AAAAAAAAAnE/dSDynpi9LJM/s1600/ss-1.jpg

Post the Thirtieth: Wherein Poetry and Politics Mingle, And I Die Of Excitement (A Retrospective)

December23

Hi everyone. You probably know me well enough to know that the lack of an exclamation point means that something is wrong. Nothing is seriously wrong…it’s just one of those days. You know, those days when the weather is crappy and you feel tired even though you slept and you don’t accomplish anything you planned to accomplish and feel very grumpy about it? Yeah, it’s been one of those days. It’s not the end of the world, but in order to tick off at least one of the things I wanted to get done, I thought I would write a post for all you lovely readers! And since today hasn’t been that exciting, I thought I would do another time-travel post where I talk about things that happened to me during the semester. And as I have done on many other posts, I will mention that I talk about my politics and personal beliefs. So if they offend you, I apologize, but you have been warned!

So. As someone who is invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I came to know about Remi Kanazi fairly early on. Remi is a poet and Palestine activist who’s probably best known for his poem “Normalize This!”. His book Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine is brilliant, and I have a signed copy, which makes me ridiculously happy every time I see it! He’s been featured on Al-Jazeera English, BBC Radio and other news stations, and he’s also a member of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

“That’s super interesting, but what does this have to do with you, Lubabah?” you might say. And I would say, “Well, I noticed in September that Remi would be doing a mini-tour on the East Coast, so I reached out to his manager to see if he’d be interested in coming to Cornell, and long story short, he came and did a performance and it was amazing!!”

So before I get into why the performance was so amazing, I have to mention the fact that the audience was incredible. I love SJP and all the work we do, but it is sometimes disheartening to see the same thirty or so people at every single event we put on. I mean, I know we’re not the most popular group on campus ever, but come on guys! We have over one hundred people on our listserv! Y U NO COME TO EVENTS, HUH? Just kidding :P But in all seriousness, it was wonderful to see so many enthusiastic and wonderful people there. It’s nice when all that publicity and e-mail writing and nagging your friends until they want to kick you in the face pays off.

But the best part was, of course, the performance itself! First of all, Palestine work is not really funny. We all have a good time together and we all enjoy each other’s company, but we don’t usually collapse in giggles while we’re trying to figure out how to stop the building of new Israeli settlements. Remi is funny, and it felt so good to laugh at this sort of event, which usually either makes me super mad or incredibly sad. He’s never disrespectful of the struggles the Palestinian people have endured (he is Palestinian himself, after all), but injecting a little bit of humor into his performance livened up what would have otherwise been an overpowering performance.

Which brings me to the second point: the poetry itself. If you watched the video above, you know what I’m talking about, but Remi’s poetry leaves you just a little bit breathless. It’s like being inundated with passionate truth, and it can take a bit to get used to. The thing is, Remi doesn’t just talk about Palestine or about being a Palestine activist on a hostile campus: his work takes on American imperialism, oppression along racial lines, bigotry and a whole host of other issues that are uncomfortable to talk about, but are absolutely necessary to give voice to. And how better to discuss uncomfortable topics than wrapping them up in the lines of a poem?

I had a creative writing teacher once who told me that in her opinion, political writing was the weakest form of writing. I respectfully but vehemently disagree. To be born into this world is to be born politicized. Whether it’s climate change, the use of drones in foreign countries or mass incarceration, we have no choice but to have an opinion and to fight for what we think is right. And before you say, “Oh, but I don’t like politics and I really don’t know enough to have an opinion”…well, unfortunately, complicity and silence are taken as agreement and support for lots of actions that you probably never even realized you signed up for.

I’m sorry if this sounds preachy; I definitely don’t mean to be. The point I’m trying to make is that art and politics are very closely intertwined because the personal and the political are irrevocably linked. Some of the best novels and poems out there–The Great Gatsby, Beloved–are deeply political, even if their messages aren’t overt or in your face. Art has always had and will continue to have an important and revered place in any freedom struggle. To some people that might be obvious, but I try to remind myself of art’s power every day, as a writer and as an activist.

OK. I am so very sleepy. I will write more tomorrow! Good night one and all :P

Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk
Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine (Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine(Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine(Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Things I Like: Meditation/Yoga

December22

Hello on this quiet Sunday afternoon! I hope everyone’s enjoying their holidays so far. Specifically, I hope everyone is resting up after a long, stressful semester, and enjoying the time they have to themselves and with friends and family.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re so busy and overwhelmed, you don’t even have time to process how you’re doing or what

Photo credit: http://www.learningmeditation.com/RotationImages/RESTORE_000014185704Resized.jpg

you’re feeling? Someone might ask you how you’re doing, but it’s so much easier to reply, politely but mechanically, “Oh, I’m good, how are you?” I have definitely found myself in a position where, if I just stopped, sat still and breathed deeply for ten minutes, I would realize that my body was crying out for sleep and nourishing food, my mind wanted a break, and my self was sick and tired of being locked in Olin basement for six hours a day, every day, with minimal human contact and no time for people I cared about and who care for me. And most of all, I need to turn to some guided meditation and yoga.

Now, before I continue, I want to recognize that yoga and meditation aren’t for everyone. Some people find it boring, some people find it increases their anxiety, and some people find it to be “hippie nonsense.” (You know who you are!) But as an anxious person and as someone who is not always as in tune with her body as she would like to think, I find it not only immensely helpful, but also necessary for my mental and physical well-being.

Since we are all on vacation, my mom, my sister and I decided to make the trip to Ithaca to take a class at Fine Spirit Studio, a yoga studio that, while strangely situated in an old factory, is spacious and quiet. The class we usually take is called Yin and Restorative Yoga. This type of yoga is much more about extended stretching and holding poses and relaxing the muscles and the mind rather than sweating and working it a la hot yoga. Every session begins with fifteen minutes of guided meditation followed by various poses and then (my favorite part!) a restorative session that’s meant to further relax your body and mind. (I will openly admit that I have nearly fallen asleep during these sessions before. Because I am secretly a cross between an old lady and a bear.)

My enjoyment of these classes partially stems from the fact that our instructor is an old family friend, and so I feel super comfortable around her, even when I’m tumbling around on my yoga mat trying to get my bolster to sit up straight. (That actually happened today, as I am eminently graceful, like a swan. Ahaha.) But while people go on and on about the benefits of meditation and yoga, they rarely talk about good it feels when you do it right. I have never inhabited my body that deeply before, to the point where you can feel the rise and fall of my every breath, every little breeze across my face, every small sensation. It’s so freeing and wonderful to be so present. It’s strange: you would think going inward like that would cause you to retreat from the world, but I always feel so much more connected to everything and everyone during meditation. I don’t know how that works, but I quite like it.

Like I said, I know this sort of practice is not for everyone, but even if you’re vaguely interested, I would highly recommend attending at least one class! Fine Spirit Studios is a bit far from campus, but if you have a Cornell Fitness Center membership, you can easily attend a yoga class for no extra charge! Just check the schedule ahead of time to see what’s available on what day.

I hope this was somewhat interesting and helpful! Do you enjoy yoga? Hate it? Want to try it out? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Post the Twenty-Ninth: Wherein I Go To A Concert (A Retrospective)

December21

Hi everyone! Wow, I am so proud of myself; like I said I would, I have written every single day this week! Yaaaaaay me! I hope you’re having as much fun reading these as I am writing them…this blog is probably one of the best jobs I could have gotten during my time at Cornell, considering my interests.

Photo credit: http://www.roseensemble.org/sites/default/files/images/shows/Rose%20Ensemble%202011_formalindoor.jpg

Anyways, I hope you don’t think that my October and November were horribly dull, since I’ve barely written about them. On the contrary: they were amazingly exciting and also really busy, hence the dearth of posts! But now that I’m on vacation, I have more time to write and reflect on my experiences, so I’d like to talk about some of the things I did during those two months, albeit retrospectively.

On October 18th, Cornell was lucky enough to host the Rose Ensemble. The Rose Ensemble is a group of singers based in St. Paul, Minnesota. They specialize in spiritual music throughout the ages from all different faiths, and collaborate with researchers to bring lesser-known music to the public.

The particular performance I saw was entitled “Land of Three Faiths,” and had a mixture of vocal and instrumental music from the Hispano-Islamic Middle Ages (which is just a fancy term for Spain under the Islamic empire in the tenth and eleventh centuries). I had never really heard music from this time period before, and was very intrigued. Besides, as a member of Cornell Chorale, I got a special discount on my ticket! So how could I not go, right?

I am so glad I did attend, because it was a beautiful concert. Of course, I am convinced that any concert in Sage Chapel is beautiful, if only because of the amazing acoustics and the beautiful stained-glass windows. I love singing in there during the Chorale concerts, and it was a pleasure to hear the Rose Ensemble there!

Isn’t it like a fairytale? Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Sage_Chapel,_HDR.jpg.

I feel rather strange writing about this without my program with me, but I will try to do my best. The vocals were stunning: I have never heard a group blend so beautifully. Every section sounded like one large voice, especially the altos! (Not that I’m biased or anything…being an alto and all…) The material was also excellent: the instruments were beautiful and sounded like an incredible mixture between Spanish guitar and Middle Eastern music. But even though everyone blended together beautifully, every solo was distinctive: some had a light, silvery quality to their voice, and others had richer voices that resounded all the way back to the choir loft. My favorite song was a piece about a woman reflecting on her younger years and the prince who wanted to marry her. She refused him, but, she thinks to herself, perhaps this time she would have accepted his offer and ridden off into the sunset with him. (I don’t know about that…I would think it would depend on how well you knew this prince. And how long the horse ride was, because horses are painful to ride for more than a couple of hours!)

But the best part about the performance? The seamless, organic continuity between the Arab-Andalusian dances, the Sephardic Jewish laments and Christian psalms. I have always been interested in Al-Andalus: Arab culture flourished, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side, and there was relative harmony and peace between three peoples who seem to be at each others’ throats more often than not throughout the rest of history. I could clearly see that all three groups influenced each others’ musical traditions and borrowed from each other to create music that is hauntingly beautiful and uplifting.

So if you ever get a chance, go and see the Rose Ensemble! You won’t be disappointed.

by posted under Events | No Comments »    

Things I Like: Cooking

December20

Hi! How is everyone? I hope that for most of you, finals are over and you are home/with friends/somewhere exciting and wonderful with people you care about and not a care in the world :D As for myself, the first day of vacation was very nice: I spent most of it writing for my thesis (I now have ELEVEN pages, yaaaaay meeee!!) and I will probably do the same tomorrow. Then I’m going to give myself a break and read some theory/background that will help me flesh out my ideas, and then I will write some more. Rinse, wash and repeat.

Besides that, I did an experiment today! Not like a science experiment where things explode (although I admit, I do like that kind of experiment too :P), but a cooking experiment. I recently discovered this delicious honey-sweetened lemon curd  from The Nourishing Gourmet and have made it twice now. We don’t have any lemons in the house at the present, so I thought I would try making the same recipe with clemintines. Clementine curd, yaaaaay!

Everything was going splendidly until I decided, in my infinite wisdom, that the mixture could get just a teeny bit thicker before I took it off the heat…and then disaster struck.

My expectations for the curd:

Photo credit: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2011/12/meyer-lemon-curd-honey-sweetened.html/meyer-lemon-curd

The painful, sad reality:

Photo credit: http://memoriesonthejourney.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/kr-scrambled-eggs.jpg

My “curd” was more like “orange-flavored scrambled eggs with lots of butter.” I panicked, and somehow thought that vigorous stirring would remedy the situation, but it just made the scrambled egg texture more apparent. And I was planning to whip it with evaporated milk and make refined-sugar free ice cream with it too! So I scooped a bunch of it into a small bowl and ate it, all the while gloomily staring at my computer.

But don’t worry about me…this is not my first cooking fail, so I got over it quite quickly! I have been interested in cooking since I realized the food was delicious and wonderful and the best way to have a steady source of it would be to learn how to make it for myself. Just kidding!! But seriously, I do think I love eating more than I love cooking. I have been cooking for myself ever since I moved into the House of Babes a year and a half ago, and I have never looked back at a dining hall since. (Unless someone else is paying, in which case I will graciously accompany them and very ungraciously stuff my face at the all-you-can-eat buffets!)

I love creating things, as you’ve probably noticed: music, stories, controversy. But I’ve always been afraid of performing, am painfully shy about my writing, and don’t really enjoy the confrontation that goes hand in hand with controversy. A warm, home-cooked meal, however, is something I take joy and pride in making and that I hate eating on my own. Chances are, if I like you, I have fed you something I made myself, whether it be cookies, cake or lemon curd.

I have recently embarked on a quest to eat more healthily, which has only fueled my cooking fervor. This means cutting out my two favorite food groups: refined sugar and refined grain. Now, I feel like I should put a disclaimer here: I realize there are many different opinions on how a person can eat healthily. For most people, what I’m attempting to do is a little bit crazy. A lot of people have suggested that I try just limiting my intake of simple carbs rather than stopping altogether. To these people, I would say: have you ever seen me eat a cookie?! That’s right: you haven’t. I can never ever eat just one cookie or just one piece of pie: once the sugar-and-white-flour monster has opened its seductively beautiful eyes and woken up to greet the world, IT WILL NOT BE STOPPED.

I’d be lying if I said eating a low-carb, low-sugar diet comes naturally to me. I love bread and pastries (I did live in France for three years after all!), and as a second-generation Bangladeshi, I am quite partial to my rice. Some days, particularly around the holidays, are super rough. I see people eating raw sugar cookie dough and stuffing their faces with stuffing (ahaha, pun!) and I’m sitting there picking around the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and wondering what I’m doing to myself.

But I have never been one to back down from a challenge. And the thing is, I feel loads better: I have slept through the night every single night this semester (and that never used to happen before), I’m losing weight, I have so much more energy, my mood is much more stable…my body tells me that I’ve made the right decision.

But the best part? ALL THE NEW RECIPES I’VE BEEN TRYING!!!

Seriously, there are so many grain-free, refined-sugar-free options! (Another disclaimer: while I have been avoiding white and brown sugars, I am allowed to eat raw honey. I know that honey is another form of sugar, but honey has all sorts of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that sugar doesn’t, and some studies have shown that honey helps in blood sugar control when compared to other sweeteners.) I’ve gotten quite good at making baked goods out of coconut flour, and The Coconut Mama has this AMAAAAZING COCONUT BUTTER FUDGE RECIPE that Cornflower has pronounced “fudge-gasmic!” I don’t see my new diet as an impediment to enjoying food but rather as a catalyst for new cooking adventures…that sometimes lead to sad (but delicious!) orange-flavored scrambled eggs.

I will close with some other delicious websites. Happy Friday evening!

Lauren from Empowered Sustenance has a similar diet to mine, so I can always trust her for delicious and healthy recipes! I particularly like the lemon mousse, which incidentally involves the lemon curd I linked earlier in this post!

Chocolate-Covered Katie ‘s recipes aren’t always grain free, but she does have some grain free options, and a lot of her recipes are sweetened with honey, dates, or even just plain old fruit! Her raw chocolate fudge cake is surprisingly light and chocolatey…although I did eat, like, four large chunks of it once, and then felt super sick. Oops?

And of course, there’s always Buzzfeed!! I admit that I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I’ve been lusting after the pumpkin scones for AGES. Perhaps that is my project for tomorrow? You will have to wait to find out!

Post the Twenty-Eighth: Wherein I Come Home

December19

Hi everyone! This one will have to be short, as I have a thesis deadline tomorrow that I am soooo not ready for, eeeeeeek! But I have all day tomorrow to work on it, so I will have something to show for my efforts. I hope.

Anyways, I made the long, arduous journey back home today! I suppose it wasn’t that long and arduous, since I only live an hour away…but still! It took forever to get all my stuff into the car, and since Cornell is kindly redoing my floors over winter break, I had to basically clear out of my room. It looks pretty sad-sack right now, and I couldn’t bear to take a picture, because it reminded me how I’m moving out and onwards so very soon…but once it’s decorated again, I shall take a picture and write a post about it!

I was just on the phone with my dad, and I asked him what to write about, and he suggested I write about how I’m not going to Bangladesh this winter. As you all probably know, my parents emigrated from Bangladesh in the ’80s, and so I still have family there. We try to go back as often as we can, but this year was going to be particularly special, as my cousin is getting married!!!

I’m not going to lie: I have lots of mixed feelings about going to Bangladesh and being there for an extended period of time. On the most basic level, my mobility is so much more limited there than it is when I’m on campus or even when I’m at home. There’s no way I could navigate the traffic there, public transportation isn’t exactly safe for a single woman in such a large city, and even I could walk anywhere from my aunt’s place, I’d get lost in a second. Not to mention the fact that I stand out like a sore thumb: I may look like everyone else, but I walk, talk and dress very differently. The language barrier is another thing that’s so frustrating: I’m nowhere near fluent in Bengali, although I understand it pretty well. But as someone who loves language and is normally good at expressing herself, being reduced to the vocabulary of a precocious two-year-old is pretty dreadful. But most of all, facing the poverty that most Bangladeshis live in is heart-breaking and incredibly guilt-inducing. Children run between cars and beg for money, old men with cataracts plead with you, and no matter how much you give them, it doesn’t do enough. I don’t know what the solution is–I’m wary of NGOs that, however well-intentioned, claim that their mission is to “fix” the problems of third-world countries. I don’t think throwing money at the problem will change anything. But I can’t just stand by and watch either, can I? I wasn’t born there, but I still feel as if I have some sort of duty, some sort of obligation.

But I was willing to put my personal feelings aside for my cousin. And then the Bangladeshi election season began, and the situation, especially in the capital, Dhaka, became more and more violent, and finally, my parents decided it wouldn’t be safe to take my sister and me. So my dad is going alone. He’ll be there for ten days, so he won’t be back until the new year.

I don’t really know what to make of all these changes. On the one hand, I completely understand where my parents are coming from: because of the protests and riots on the street, people aren’t going out, which means that if we had gone, it would have been even harder than usual to get around. But on the other hand, I was excited about being there during such a time of strife. I guess my ambivalent feelings about Bangladesh are partly rooted in the fact that I have a hard time understanding what it is the Bangladeshis are fighting for. Both my grandfathers were part of the Bengali language movement in the ’50s, a political movement that allowed Bengalis living in what was then East Pakistan to reclaim their language and their culture. My parents were barely in elementary school when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in a bloody civil war. And as much as I believe in self-determination and radical political change, every time I go there, I can’t help but wonder: is this why people fought and died? So that their children would have to eke out a living in the factories and pay exorbitant bribes to government officials just to get by?

So I guess that while I was looking forward to celebrating my cousin’s wedding, I was also hoping for another chance to try and understand why my grandmother counted down the days until she could return when she came to visit us, why I can’t just simply throw up my hands and completely disregard this part of my heritage. And as much as I’m grateful for a quiet staycation with my mom and sister, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

I know that at the end of the day, everything happens for the best. There must be a reason why the Powers that Be decided we weren’t going to be there this time around. So I’m going to make the most of the situation and hope and pray that my dad returns home safe and sound.

Sorry if this post seems rather gloomy, but those are my thoughts for now. Sleep well, and look for another post tomorrow!

Things I Like: Music

December18

Hello :P How is everyone this evening? I am so sleepy…I actually took a power nap between 6 and 6:30 this evening, and would have slept longer if Tulip hadn’t come to get me for dinner! I think I’ve been staying up too late and not getting enough exercise. But it’s sooo cooooold outside, and I don’t wanna way aaaaaall the way to the gym…which is only five minutes away from me. I have no excuse, I know! And I wasn’t even that productive today. But I just finished finals, right? So don’t judge me, rugrats! I’ve earned the right to sit in bed with my blue blanket and marathon Chuck (even though the whole time, I was crafting articulate arguments about why Sarah Walker is far from the feminist ideal. I know. I wish I could turn it off sometimes too.) At least I wasn’t lying in bed. Until I took my nap.

Anyways, I am going home tomorrow, and after a couple of nights of sleeping and days of nothing-doing, I am sure I’ll be ready to get back on the productivity train! You would think that because I’m on vacation, I would have nothing to do, but I have promised myself to get halfway through my thesis, work on my novel, and catch up on SJP duties that I’ve neglected during the semester. I also want to alphabetize our family’s bookshelves and play card games with my sister. Oooo, and I want to watch Jewel in the Crown, which is a BBC miniseries set in colonial India! And I need to finish my mom’s birthday present. And knit myself a pair of mitts for when I’m driving. As you can tell, I party hardy when I get the chance. NOT.

Another thing that I would like to do during the five weeks that I’ll be at home is practice for my music lessons. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned music lessons before, but I’ve taken flute and voice lessons every semester since I’ve been at Cornell. I am also part of Cornell Chorale, which takes up my Friday evenings, but is totally worth it. I’ve been playing the flute since I was in seventh grade, which was the same time I started voice lessons.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have awesome teachers all my life, but I’ve found my Cornell instructors to be particularly wonderful. My flute teacher Liz is a warm, kind person who somehow manages to encourage me to work as hard as I can without ever making me feel bad if I’ve had a particularly rough week and haven’t had time to practice. Technique has always been my weakness; I have relatively small hands and I tend to tense up during technical passages, so short, tense fingers = weak technique. But I have come so far with Liz, primarily because if I’m having trouble with a passage or an etude, she will play along with me, which gives me the confidence to make mistakes. Making mistakes is probably one of the most important things I’ve learned to do during my lessons: if you don’t try, you will never know if you can play the second movement of the Bach E minor, right?

Of course, Emmanuel Pahud can play Bach flawlessly. But then again, he plays everything flawlessly. And on top of that, he looks like a Swiss-French Colin Firth. It’s really not fair. Photo credit: http://wosu.org/2012/classical101/files/Emmanuel-Pahud21-592×410.jpg

Amanda, my voice teacher, is the first teacher I’ve had who has really understood my voice type and has always been successful at helping me choose repertoire that I can learn something from without overly taxing my voice. I’d always thought that I had a top-heavy voice, and was surprised to find that I was more in tune and had a freer sound if I just backed off a little and let my voice do my thing. As Amanda always tells me, I have an “Italian servant/peasant girl” voice, because my range and timbre is appropriate for roles like Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Despina in Cosi fan tutti. But I’ve also been singing a lot of jazz and other songs that keep my lower register in check.

Anyways, why am I shamelessly plugging my teachers? Well, first of all, if you are a prospective Cornell student who wants to continue taking flute and/or voice lessons, you should definitely ask to audition/meet with them! They are both wonderful teachers and you would be lucky to have them. But I also wanted to write this post because I had to make a slightly difficult decision this semester about whether to continue lessons in the spring or to drop them in order to focus on my courses and my thesis.

Obviously, I decided to continue, and a large part of it was because I couldn’t imagine what my semester would be like without Liz or Amanda! But I also couldn’t imagine what my semester would be like without music. I mean, I listen to music, but creating music is one of the most relaxing, sometimes most frustrating, but ultimately most rewarding things I do. Whenever I feel anxious or stressed, rather than eating raw cookie dough or punching my pillow (oh, who am I kidding, I do that too!), I head out to Lincoln Hall, lock myself in a practice room, and play or sing Faure and Mozart for hours.

This is the back of Lincoln Hall, which is where music lessons and classes are usually held. In the spring, there are beautiful magnolias and cherry blossom trees that I like to sit under! Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Cornell_Lincoln_Hall_1.jpg

I realized that music was more than a hobby that I picked up but would most likely drop after college: it is often a lifeline during hard weeks and it reminds me that there is more to life than one usually thinks. As Karl Barth said, “When the angels sing for God, they sing Bach; but I am sure that when they sing for themselves, they sing Mozart – and God eavesdrops.” (I prefer the Romantics like Chopin and Faure, but you can’t really compete with Bach and Mozart, right?)

And most importantly, I need music to remind me why I do everything else. To be honest, classes can be grim sometimes, especially considering the types of things I’m interested in. Going to my class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right after discussing racism and sexism in Enlightenment thought tends to bring one down after a couple weeks. And as much as I love activism, it is sometimes draining and depressing. You fight for weeks and months, and for what? The UN strongly condemns this and calls for that, but sometimes it feels like nothing ever changes.

And then I play a couple of bars of Ganne’s Andante and Scherzo and I remember why I’m fighting. In the short term, oppression seems like forever and change comes slowly or not at all. But in the long term, change has to come, because with beauty such as this music, how can it not? I remember that while I’m fighting for concrete change, I’m also fighting for beauty and art and music. I think I often feel torn between what many mistakenly think of as two separate identities: the “artsy” me, who wants to write for young girls to show them that it is possible to be a strong woman without wielding a sword, who ardently believes that music has healing properties beyond our imagination, and the “political” me, who knows that without direct action and speaking out and educating oneself, we will never achieve justice and equality. But to create something beautiful, whether it’s a poem, a painting or a particularly emotive rendition of Faure’s Pavane–isn’t that a form of resistance in a world that often seems too ugly and awful to bear? To refuse to give in to “reality,” “practicality” and the other labels we put on racism, bigotry and oppression to make them more palatable? To fight fire not with fire but with love?

Sorry if that was super cheesy and philosophical. I think Mark Gonzales said it much better than I ever could: “Dance, write, speak, dream, love and exhale the world anew…and wage beauty.”

Post the Twenty-Seventh: Wherein I Am Done With Finals!!

December17

Hi everyone! How are you today? Guess who turned in her paper on race and female sexuality in Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” today?? MEEEEEEE!!! AND NOW I’M DONE, YO!!!!

Ugh, I’m so tired though…you know the kind of tired that happens when you’ve spent most of your time during the past week looking at a computer screen and typing words? I suppose I should get used to it; I am planning on making a living by writing fantasy novels for teenage girls, after all. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that teenage girls are super impatient, so if I don’t get the sequel to my princess-overthrows-the-monarchy-and-helps-establish-a-republic-with-her-feminist-and-social-justice-writings(-and-finds-good-friends-and-a-good-man-along-the-way), I will be answerable to a legion of articulate, angry young women. I’ve never actually been on the receiving end of such wrath, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it would not be fun :P

Now that finals are done, I still have to work on my thesis, however. I have to turn in something by this Friday, which is completely doable (and yes, the last part of the sentence was more for me than for you). And then I go home, to my beautiful, glorious home and I will sleep for twelve hours straight without any guilt or regret. And then I will go watch The Hobbit. And try and muster up the energy for an actual blog post, because this one is pretty bad. No, you don’t have to comfort me; this is complete and utter filler.

Hmmm, what can I tell you about my life that I haven’t already divulged:

  • Violet is back from London!!! I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet, but I’m sure we’ll reconnect soon.
  • I discovered that another one of my friends is as tantalized by Richard Armitage in North and South as I am. If you haven’t seen it, hie thee to Netflix, and be prepared for intense feelings. Lots of intense feelings, primarily conveyed through hungry, devouring stares into the female protagonist’s soul.
  • I made pancakes today for breakfast! They were made with coconut flour and a lot of eggs, so they taste less pancake-y and more egg-y, but hey, you still to put syrup on them, right? And that’s all that matters.
  • Speaking of going grain-free: I have been trying to cut out grains and refined sugars from my diet. It’s been super hard, because most of my favorite foods are sweet, carb-filled, or (the ultimate) sweet and carb-filled. But I’ve been getting much better at self-discipline and self-control, and more importantly, I’ve been feeling more energized and cheery. Depending on who you are, this might actually be a pretty sucky deal. So if you’re one of those people that I’ve annoyed with my cuteness, I apologize. But not really, because who doesn’t like cute things? Click on the link. You know you want to. Do it.
  • I started reading an excellent book called The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It’s a neo-Victorian coming-of-age novel, so basically, it’s all my favorite things in one beautiful novel. I will let you know how it is once I finish it.
  • This is a super boring list, isn’t it? Also, if you’re still slogging through finals, I am sorry if my freedom offends you. Believe me, if the situation were reversed, I would find it super offensive too. So to help you all, here is an encouraging video, just for you. Study hard! If not for your GPA, then for Middle Earth.

 

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