A variety of things that are happening

In case you were wondering what I’ve been up to the last few days, as I have no phone:

I workshopped final projects every day of class last week before having minor outpatient surgery on Thursday morning. Friday, due to surgery-related discomfort, I was substantially late to a wedding rehearsal and dinner for some of my old No Strings Attached friends. They’d asked me and a bunch of other spectacular NSA alumni to perform Saturday at their wedding, so I lost my phone in the best possible way. The NSA supergroup was performing pre-ceremony for the groom (since neither he or the bride were going to have made their entrances before we sang), and I suppose I left my phone sitting on one of the chairs set up for the guests (I unfortunately can’t recall with as acute a level of detail as usual; I was on pain meds at the time). To date, no one has dropped it off at the hotel front desk (I called them from my roommate’s phone last night). I’d been planning on getting a new phone anyway, but I am pretty frustrated, especially given that I’ve needed to be in touch with the doctor’s office this week for obvious follow-up reasons. Sunday I spent looking for gifts at the Renegade Holiday Fair (and getting some small Laura Berger prints for myself because I love her work).

This week, I’ve tried to take it a little easier since I spent most of my days immediately post-op moving around a ton. Thank god for crit week!

If you’re unsure what crit week means (or misread it in my tweets), it’s short for critique week. For those of you who haven’t talked to me very recently/don’t keep up with the About page, I’m earning my MFA at a primarily visual art-oriented school. Writers are considered part of the “artist” category, and so we too turn in some samples of our work to be critiqued by a panel of faculty members and graduate-level peers. During the fall semester, this panel is comprised of people within your home department; in the spring, it’s an interdisciplinary panel. I submitted a monologue tentatively titled “The Hat Universe” from a triptych I’m currently working on and “Leaning,” the ever-evolving short story about a second-grader doing things she’s not supposed to in class (I wrote the original version in the spring of 2009 while taking John Rubins’s intermediate narrative class at U of I). I had an excellent panel and their feedback was exceptionally helpful. One crit down, three to go.

One of the boons of crit week is that classes are cancelled, so I’ve gotten to rest up and work from home the last few days (which has been nice, since I am phoneless). I’ve gotten a lot of forms filled out (insurance uuuuugh), a new phone ordered, snow boots obtained, cleaned the hell out of part of my bedroom (renewed my commitment to this blog…), you know. Boring things. Tomorrow I’ve got to get my oil changed and I’m making my first trip out to the Dill Pickle, which is moderately close to where I live. I get stupidly excited about grocery shopping. I’ve also been watching an absurd amount of Rugrats on Netflix (somehow related to the Dill Pickle?!).

Headed to Springfield this weekend to see my folks before I head to TX for Christmas. Last full week of class next week. Things yet to do: find an atrocious holiday sweater.

P.S. If you haven’t been keeping up with me on Twitter (and if not, shame on you! there’s a feed on the right side of this page if you want to check it out/subscribe to my bullshit, and I know you want to), here’s how you should get in touch with me during this time of phonelessness:

  • Tweet at me, fool! Get your twat on!
  • E-mail me at chelsea[dot]fiddyment[at]gmail[dot]com
  • Instant message me at the afore-mentioned e-mail address (I’ve left it up as away so people can use it like a voicemail inbox, leave me a note and I’ll get back to ASAP)
  • Hit me up on the Facespace, especially if we are fo’ real friends
  • Comment on this fucking blog! All over the place! Wherever you want! Or, you know, probably on this post, where it will make narrative sense.




It will probably be 2 months before I update again (let’s be real)

Things I’m reading for funsies:

  • Clash of Kings by GRRM (again)
  • Storm of Swords by GRRM (again)
  • Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

Things on my list:

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  • A Brief History of Authoterrorism edited by Gabriel Levinson
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Things I’ve cooked (that I hadn’t really made before):

  • a ton of potato soup
  • tempeh hash
  • egg & rice bowls
  • vegetable korma (with homemade paneer)
  • tempeh shepherd’s pie
  • pasta with white wine & veggies
  • vegan & gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
  • oatmeal & buttermilk pancakes
  • whatever’s in the fridge curry

A bunch of miscellaneous things:

  • First-time occurrences: getting laryngitis, collapsing on the subway, watching O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Hustler, and Black Dynamite, going to a bachelorette party, cleaning the sun room completely, becoming an aunt, filing insurance claims, blah blah
  • Projects I’m currently working on: two (2) new stories, a bunch of old works, a collection of text self-portraits, my photo project, a collaborative live-writing performance, a triptych of monologues, bunches of things (probably a text-based game in the near future, among other things)
  • Things I’d like to do here: update, finish my LotR live-blogging (maybe get back into it over January), include more cooking updates, offer more opinions/speculation on things about writing and publication (as well as inevitably, current events), start blogging Adventure Days with one of my program-mates

The Big Move, pt. 2

When we left our heroes, they had just enjoyed some fantastic pizza and beer from Piece after a long day of moving, and were trying to figure out what on earth they had so many keys for.

That’s a lot of keys, yo

The next morning, Allison’s parents ventured forth to forage for breakfast and coffee before heading for home and leaving us to our own devices. I began pondering the semantics of roommates as we went about our day.

We were quite internetless at this point, so I chronicled the day through Twitter. Some of you might have seen this:

It’s more like a work table (because when I work, I need room to spread out 8 million odds and ends around me).

I’ve only just now reached a point where I can use it to work on

Allison got to work on finding ways to open the windows so we could ventilate the apartment. At the time, only one of the windows in the sunroom would open (the other was off its track) and neither of the windows in the living room had cranks. Both of the bedrooms have one window with an A/C unit in it, so no go there, either. That left the bathroom window and the door to the outside stairs, which Allison figured out after some speculation about what someone had been thinking putting glass panels over screens. Needless to say, we put the screwdriver my parents bought for our tool kit to good use, and would once again the next day–Annual Global Consumerism Day, or July 4, on which Allison experienced IKEA for the first time.

Portobello Mushrooms with Pasta

My version of a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This is a great main course after Challison Salad, is incredibly easy and looks beautiful.

  • 8 oz pasta of your choice (I went with farfalle, because it’s sassy)
  • 1lb portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or more, depending on how much onion/mushroom you use)
  • 1 small to medium onion, finely diced (I like onion. Use a big ol’ onion.)
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper to taste
  • 2 (or more) cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed (Come on. Use more.)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Alamos Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 2 tbsp toasted bread crumbs
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Remove the stems and gills from the portobellos and slice the caps into 1/2-inch strips. Cut the larger pieces in half.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion, and cook over medium heat until lightly colored. Raise the heat, add the mushrooms, and saute until they begin to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add half the garlic. Mix the tomato paste and win and add it to the mushrooms. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes more.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, then drain and add it to the mushrooms along with the cream, herbs, and remaining garlic. Toss, correct the seasonings, and divide among warm serving plates. Scatter the bread crumbs and a very light dusting of freshly grated cheese over each serving.

Challison Salad

The long-awaited peach & blueberry salad recipe. Use your best judgement on how much salad to make. First, the dressing.

Lime-Mint-Chili Vinaigrette
(I doubled this for when we had company for dinner and made it the day before–if the olive oil solidifies, just let it sit out and warm up a little while before you need to use it. This is a modified version of Deborah Madison’s lime and fresh mint vinaigrette recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

  • 1 tsp grated/minced lime zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 to 6 tbsp olive oil (I wouldn’t use anything heavier than that; if you want less flavor, use light olive oil or sunflower oil)
  • 2 green onions, including an inch of the greens, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 of a Serrano chili, sliced into thin rounds, including seeds (you want it hot! Also, don’t hesitate to add more if you want it zingier)

Combine the lime zest and the juice with the salt, then whisk in the oil. Stir in the onions, mint, and chili.

Challison Salad

  • Greens (we used spinach and romaine; arugula would be perfect but we couldn’t find it readily)
  • 1 medium peach, diced (or more, depending on how much salad you’re making)
  • Handful of blueberries (try to be even about the peach to blueberry ratio)
  • Lime-mint-chili vinaigrette to taste
  • 1/4 to a 1/3 o f a cup sliced almonds
  • Crumbled fresh goat cheese to taste

Chop or tear the desired amount of greens to serve everybody. Dice the peach(es) and add to the salad, along with the blueberries. Pour lime-mint-chili vinaigrette over salad and toss in order to coat everything. Add almonds and goat cheese, then serve.

The Big Move, pt. 1

It took me about a week to finish packing/offloading stuff before being ready to move…

Things you don’t need for grad school

I’ve accumulated a lot of shit over the span of my life, though what’s most relevant right now is all the shit I’ve collected over the last 6 years. While packing for the big move on Saturday, I’ve found a number of things I forgot I had, which means they need to be given away/every last embarrassing trace of them destroyed. Some of them are from my UIS days, and a lot of them are things I saved knowing they would come in handy for programming as a resident advisor/multicultural advocate.

None of them, however, are things I need for graduate school.

A grand return, a grand exit

I start this blog post the way I’ve started the few that have appeared here in the last several months: I know that updates have been few and far between, that I vaguely allude to things going on in my life but never really explain them fully, that I really need to get back on stupid Two Towers liveblogging, &c., &c.

Well, in this triumphant return to blogging, I intend to reveal all/more like most to you.

I mentioned a while ago that I had started a new job at a coffee house, which is part of the reason why I have been so absent from the internet. This job has really been a joy and something I’m terribly thankful for–that great combination of giving me tons of hours (explaining my lack of stupid internet production), meeting and working with absolutely fantastic people, and learning a craft that is quite near and dear to my heart. I love working with food and drink—from production, enjoyment, and reviewing to the analysis of all three (and the myriad factors that affect them). Coffee is just one thing that’s particularly special and euphoria-inducing for me. I’ve always loved the atmosphere of coffee places, and frankly, silly as it may sound, have wanted to work at one since before I was old enough to even think about working part-time.

I’ve been trying to put my nose to the grind, travel less, and save my earnings, so as I said, I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with some of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I haven’t lost sight of them, though, and starting in July I intend to get back to reading two books a month, liveblogging books for no good reason, and focusing on the design/story projects that I’ve  been kicking around in my head for the last three months. More information about those will be posted to Drawing Coffee as the particulars are established, but I’ll say right now that they require volunteer participation, so I hope that it’s something some of you will consider.

The other big focus of my attention recently has really mandated how I spent the rest of my time and efforts in the last few months. I’m glad to finally be able to publicly, proudly announce that I will be attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in September, seeking my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing. After a lot of work and a lot of deliberation about the direction of my life in the last year and a half, my decision to go back to school has brought me a lot of peace (and excitement! and of course, some mandatory stress). My mantra on writing is that, in order to be a writer in the 21st century, you have to be a hustler. You’ve got to be involved in every stage of the process: your own writing, the innovation and practices of the publishing industry, and in education and outreach. I felt grad school was the best manner of equipping myself to participate in all of these areas. As I go about crafting a degree and a job for myself, I intend to discuss my thoughts on the state of writing more at length, hopefully in the format of blog-columns somewhat similar to my previous writings for the Daily Illini.

That said, I’m moving to Chicago in the very near future. I was there last week with my soon-to-be roommate Allison (most recently a lady of Cambridge, as you may remember) to find an apartment. We found this.

There are so many things that I’m looking forward to, and I know that were it not for the things I’ve done here and the people who helped me along, I wouldn’t be headed in the direction I am. I can never express enough gratitude to:

  • My graduate school references, a team of brilliant and passionate people who have hugely shaped my life in the last six years, and whose willingness to represent me leaves me utterly dumbfounded. All five of them have encouraged me, inspired me, and given me hope for the state of writing and writing education.
  • My writing group, which has been a cornerstone of my sanity for the entirety of my time here. What an incredible luxury to hear their experiences and their works, and to have the benefit of their listening ears. A phenomenal bunch of people to be forever indebted to.
  • My friends, who are everywhere–my C-U folks, my recent grads who I am endlessly proud of, my old-new UIS crowd, my spectacular coworkers, my bf4l across the country, my Chicago crew, my fellow Kings of Wicker Park, my scattered friends who I only get to talk with via internet and text, a certain Merton…I could never name all of you in all the places you are, but without you, there could certainly be no me. Thank you for all the conversations and experiences both poignant and absurd, and your endless willingness to listen and invest your time and care in me.
  • My family, who somehow still surprise me with their level of confidence in me and my goals. I should know by now what an incredible support network I have, but I cannot help but be amazed.
  • The internet. You know, all you guys out there. Someone has to read this shit. I hope that you’ll continue to follow along as I expand my portfolio of work at Drawing Coffee and keep up with my misadventures and silliness here.<3

Thank you to everyone for everything.

Simple sweet French toast

I’ve got some ideas for other spice combos, but here’s what I made for brunch for my parents today since we all had the day off.

Basic sweet-but-not-too-sweet French toast

  • Bread of your choice (I had French bread that I purposely let get a little stale–makes for chewier, less soggy toast)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (dairy, non-dairy, whatever)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (you  may  need a little more)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Butter/oil for your cooking pan
  1. Throw all your ingredients that are not bread in a decent-sized bowl (one that’s big enough to let your bread slices lay flat and soak). Whisk them together.
  2. Melt your butter over medium heat (on a stove scale of 10, I was at about 6.5), until it starts to bubble.
  3. Soak your bread slices to desired level of batter saturation and toss them in the pan, cooking both sides until they are lightly browned. Since the cinnamon will not dissolve in the batter, you may need to add a little bit more periodically since it will mostly cling to the first slice of bread you soak after adding it.
  4. Serve however you like–with jam, honey, maple syrup, powdered sugar, the sky’s the limit. I sliced fresh strawberries over mine, dusted them with a little bit of extra cinnamon, and drizzled a little bit of maple syrup on top.

Change up the flavor profile of these however you want–don’t want them to be sweet on their own at all? Leave out the sugar and vanilla, and consider serving with fresh fruit or just jam. Go the complete opposite direction and make them savory–add a little bit of salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin to your batter and cook. WHATEVER YOU WANT, BRO.

Whatever whatever

Here is a really quick recap of everything in the world that has been happening since my last real posts here:

  • I’ve been trying to keep up with my 2 books/month goal and doing somewhat decently–I kind of got sidetracked in April because I started rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in order to prepare myself for the debut of the HBO series and, more importantly, for the release of the fifth book in July. I’m also almost finished with David Eagleman’s fantastic collection of speculative short-shorts, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and Encounter,  Milan Kundera’s most recent collection of essays that has much to do with things Modern.
  • I am working a new (dream) job making coffee. In other coffee-related news, I have graduated to drinking Americanos.
  • I have been doing tons of planning and worrying and more planning and more worrying over things in my life.
  • I’ve been trying my hand at vegan baking. So far the best thing I’ve made are chocolate-raspberry cookies with walnuts. I’ll probably get around to posting that recipe in the near future.
  • I hurt my foot at the beginning of the year. It finally started getting better, and then after I started my new job, I hurt my knee. I think I should pretty much be better by next week and I’d like to start getting my foot muscles adjusted to my Vibrams again so that I can get back to running. I’m still nervous about the possibility of really having hurt my knee…we’ll see what happens. Finally back at the gym at least doing upper body weights.
  • Don’t worry! I haven’t been reading any more of Two Towers without you guys. Live-blogging will resume sometime in the future, when I have more time (as in when I am not working close to 40 hours a week, submitting paperwork, and trying to organize my whole life). Doing posts for a whole chapter can take a long time (as you’ve seen), and I like to just leisure read without an audience (plus I forgot how absorbed I get reading GRRM and I just set everything else aside).
  • Went to Bostland again in March to visit Allison. Roadtrip with the boys (Justin and Sean)! God I love Bostland.
  • Have bumped into/reconnected with a bunch of folks from UIS in the last few months. The world is a very small place.
  • Learning to plan but not to worry about things I can’t control. Taking more time to talk less, think and read more. Knowing what I want and appreciating the ability to recognize. Continuing to be ambiguous about my life in blog posts. 🙂
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