30 May 2012

"They're More Like Guidelines Anyway"

                I can tell that I learned how to cook from my mom when I am making cream of potato soup and when I recall that the recipe I’d read a while back asked for dillweed, I decide to replace it with a couple dashes of chili powder. I don’t know what dillweed is, and I definitely don’t have it in my cupboard, but everything’s better with chili powder, so why not throw it in? The soup turned out great, by the way.
                It’s my theory that the different ways people cook fall along a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum are those who always use a recipe. These people may be new to cooking, or they may be old hands, but either way, they are rule followers.
                On the other extreme end of the spectrum are those who never use a recipe. These are typically professional chefs, grandmothers, or people who simply can’t cook but have no intention of trying to learn how.
                Somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum are the rest of us. I know quite a few people who are at or very close to the never-cook-anything-without-a-recipe side. Personally, I am close to the never-use-a-recipe side. I, however, am not that extreme. I do use recipes when I bake, but that’s about it.
                Many lovely people gave me cookbooks when I got married or shortly afterwards. These cookbooks don’t go to waste. In fact, I sit down and read them every once in a while, looking for new ideas. But, unless I’m baking bread or cookies, you’ll never see me using the measuring cups and spoons that I also got at my wedding.
                You cook the way you are taught, and my Mom never followed a written recipe, so neither do I. Unlike some, I did know how to cook before I got married, though I had never cooked much, preferring to do other household chores while my siblings cooked. When I was going to get married, I did want to write down the recipes for a couple of dishes that my family frequently ate but which I hadn’t cooked often. I still have that notebook. I’ll share with you the recipe for my favorite green bean dish, as copied verbatim from the notebook:
Green beans, turmeric, mustard seeds, chilies, chili powder, salt, and carrots.
                 The note says that you can replace green beans with cabbage for a different vegetable dish. It’s understood that this dish is meant to be stir-fried and no measurements are needed, because, after all, you’ll probably want to cook different amounts each time, right?
                My family never ate seafood, and I’ve never cooked fish in my life, but the other day Angel brought some salmon filets home from the grocery store. I did get online to check what temperature fish is supposed to be cooked at and for how long, but then I just added butter, lemon juice, garlic, onions, pepper, and chili powder to the filets, baked them, and they turned out great! At least according to Angel. I’m not a fan of fish, but I ate them anyways.
                Both Angel and I love chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic, and onions, so I find a way to work those into many recipes that may not have included them originally. To me, it’s more fun, and by gum, it’s more American to not be constrained by the boundaries of someone else’s recipes in your everyday cooking.
                And maybe because my husband is not a picky eater, I can get away with it.
                Where are you on the cooking spectrum? Extra points for anyone who can name the source of my title.
29 May 2012

一个妇女 像 你一样

 So, here goes, my first and possibly my only blog post in Chinese. My last assignment for last semester was to translate a love song into Chinese. I chose "A Woman Like You" by Lee Brice.And yes, I shamelessly translate for meaning rather than literally both when it's necessary to do so due to language differences and also when I simply don't know how to translate the precise wording. I know my Chinese isn't beautiful, but it gets the message across, I hope! Enjoy!

我想一想说“我可能会去 钓鱼, 可能吃更多快餐馆的炸鸡肉。如果我还没听到你的名字,我会打很多高尔夫球。我现在还是开我的绿色的Nova 。我可能还没听说过瑜珈。如果我是一格单身,我可能是一个更好的美式足球迷。可是,如果我是一个单身,我现在寻找一个妇女 你一样”
她已经知道如果我没有她,我很不高兴。可是我要提醒她, 所以我说,“你知道我去钓鱼的时候我感到晕船。你做最好吃的炸鸡肉。我是一个非常不好的高尔夫球运动员。我喜欢你的名字的声音。我还想我的绿色的Nova,但是我很喜欢看你做瑜珈。我觉得婚姻比是单身好得多,因为如果我还没认识你,我真得不知道我会做什么。”
24 May 2012

You Might be a Newlywed if...

·         At the rate you’re going, it’ll take you 3 years to use up a 150-count box of kitchen trash bags you picked up at Sam’s Club.
·         If it weren’t for thrift stores and relatives to give you their old furniture, you’d be sitting, eating, and sleeping on the floor.
·         Cuddling is a key activity of every day.
·         Your guestroom amenities consist of a bed, a pillow (yes, singular), sheets, and a throw blanket that almost covers the bed.
·         You don’t own any curtains.
·         The only curtains you do own are fashioned from flags of various nations that your husband had in college that you’ve tacked to window frames.
·         You haven’t even opened some of your useful wedding presents yet. i.e. plates, an electric griddle, etc.
·         Smoothies and popcorn are considered a meal. And Marie Callender’s frozen pies are considered an especially good meal.
·         Your house is decorated primarily with pictures of the two of you.
·         You do two loads of laundry, once a week.
·         You do all your grocery shopping together.
·         You have long discussions about whether or not to splurge and buy bathroom rugs for the second bathroom you don’t use very often. In the end, you decide, no, it can wait.
·         It took you over a year to get around to buying a shower curtain for your second shower.
·         The people who check your ID write large Ms on your hands in permanent marker when you go to a country music/line dancing bar.
·         You still have dishcloths that were given to you at your wedding that you haven’t used yet.
·         It’s 2012 and you have a 20-inch TV screen.
·         Your husband calls you from work just to say hi.
·         You go out and pay your cell phone, car insurance, and internet bills together.
·         Your cars are over 10 years old with well over 100,000 miles on them and have left you stranded and needing a tow truck more than once in the last year.
·         You sit on the driveway to hang out with your husband and keep him company while he changes struts, O2 sensors, alternators, and other random valves and belts.
What else might be added?
09 May 2012

First Day, Last Day

 First Day of College
Last Day of College
Since I like to celebrate so many special occasions with clothes, it occurred to me to recreate the outfit from my first day of school. I had to make due with a different pair of jeans and a different pair of shoes as those two items had gone the way of all cheap clothing. A few changes are immediately obvious: Today, my hair is now significantly shorter and significantly less orange than when I began college. I have less of a farmer's tan. I've moved to a different house where it's much windier. But my 'style' hasn't changed! And, apparently, neither has my affinity for 'posing.'
08 May 2012

The End (of College)

                I knew it had happened when reading a professor’s positive evaluation of my research paper brought tears to my eyes. Finally, the reality of being finished with college was hitting me, and I was getting all emotional about it. During the last four years, I have insisted to myself on a number of occasions that when I was finally finished with school, I would not be sad about the end, I would just be happy to have it all over with. And every time I said that, I knew it wouldn’t come true. I just felt like saying it anyways.

                I graduate from college in eleven days. I have three more class periods to attend and three more final exams to take. It’s not quite over yet. But today, for one last time I took the padlock off the #4 locker that I have commandeered since 2008, and I experienced an overwhelming sense of finality. It really is over. Before long, I really won’t belong here anymore, in these hallways I’ve paced up and down and in these classrooms where I’ve labored over many an essay test. After four years here, I feel like I know my way around. I’ve been in the underground tunnels, I’ve gotten into locked buildings, I’ve napped on every floor of the library, and I’ve taken a class in every building on campus except the Engineering building. But soon, this won’t be my campus to wander anymore.

In a few days, I won’t be a college student anymore.

On this occasion, two of my grandpa’s favorite sayings seem appropriate. “Education is expensive,” and “Did you learn anything?” The first one is obvious to anyone who has looked at the price of tuition and textbooks lately. The second one is a question I’ve been asked nearly every year on my birthday by either my grandpa or my mom, with the meaning being that, if you have gone a whole year of your life without learning anything, you really haven’t lived well. After four years of college, I thought it was about time that I reflect a few things I have learned from this experience.

I’ve learned:

1.       Mandarin Chinese. My Mandarin leaves much to be desired, but my very last project for my fourth-year Chinese class was to translate a love song or poem. I chose “A Woman Like You” by Lee Bryce, and I was proud of my ability after all these years to craft a rough but grammatically correct translation of my favorite country song.

2.       Enough Spanish to get the gist of the conversations I inevitably find myself in the middle of or eavesdropping on. And enough Spanish to feel comfortable instituting “español miércoles” in my house, beginning May 23.

3.       That I really am a language geek. I used to try to deny it. In high school, I got high grades in everything (perhaps partially because I graded my own work) and I considered myself moderately interested and proficient in all subjects. In college, I studied three languages in addition to English and decided if I all I had to do in college was study languages, I’d never leave. I am fascinated by the etymology of Chinese characters and felt a special thrill this morning when my Spanish professor took the time to point out to the class that the Spanish ojalá, which means “I wish, I hope” comes from Arab origins, from a phrase meaning “God willing.”

4.       Sometimes the very best thing you can do right before a history midterm is to let that cute guy buy you Baskin Robbins ice cream and chat with him until the very last minute before the test. I got a 99% on that test and to this day, more than two years later, I still remember how good that ice cream was.

5.       Not all professors are evil. And not all of them are good either. For any would-be students, talk to other students and do your research before you choose a class with a certain professor. The quality of the professor can determine the course of your semester.

6.       How to write a paper on anything. Literally. In the last four years I’ve written papers on Malaysia’s New Economic Policy, Sherlock Holmes, Southeast Asia’s perspective on American sports, baseball card statistics, Confucianism, Aristotle, the Iliad, and corn-based ethanol. If I actually remembered everything that I’ve written in my class papers, I’d have enough information in my head to bore everyone in my general vicinity.

7.       How to handle rejection. Okay, not really. That probably always will be hard. But during the last few years, I’ve been turned down after interviewing for a job I thought I was well-qualified for, and inexplicably fired from a job that I had performed excellently at. I’ve had professors who mercilessly criticized a paper I thought was especially genius. I’ve had dozens of articles and short stories rejected by would-be publishers. And each time, I’ve lived. Rejection isn’t fun at the time, but it isn’t the end of the world either. That’s a good thing to know.

8.       To always choose friends over studying. Angel has mentioned to me that one thing he noticed about me early on was that I never rejected an invite to hang out with our crowd on the basis of a need to study. Apparently he found that so unusual and attractive that he married me. Studying is necessary, but I’m grateful I learned early on how to get it done efficiently and at the most appropriate times so that I was free to make plenty of memories of days and nights spent with friends.

9.       God’s plans are better than mine. To me, and to everyone else out there, for a Chinese major, spending a full semester in Beijing for free (due to extra scholarships I had lined up) sounds like a wonderful idea. Anyone who would refuse the offer for no good reason must be crazy. But it turned out God had a much better plan for fall semester of my Junior year, which included countless hours spent with my cellphone and a couple of hours planning wedding.
I believe that the last four years and the money invested in my education has been worth it. I'm not terribly sure exactly how what I have learned will be used as I continue in life but I'm quite convinced that it will be.