Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sharp knives and hot oil at 1:30 AM

The first week of classes went well, I like all my professors and the classes seem interesting so far. Last night we went out with some classmates to celebrate the end of the first week. We started at a friend's house where we watched the debate. We made up our own very flexible rules for a debate drinking game, which included taking a drink any time:
-Obama said "Look" at the beginning of a sentence
-McCain said "Warshington" (or any mispronunciation)
-either candidate dropped names, especially of an Average Joe met on the campaign trail (hello, bracelets!)
-we felt like it

It was a good time, and from there we continued down to the local wine bar, which apparently becomes the local hip-hop club for the Barely Twenty-One crowd in Brattleboro on weekends. Given their raging youthful hormones perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised that a fistfight nearly broke out in the bar, requiring four police officers and a state trooper to intervene. That was a good sign that it was time to go home.

In a larger city, a long night out might call for a visit to the local greasy pizza place, greasy kebab shop, or (my favorite) greasy french fry stand, but sadly none of these are available here. So we decided to go home and make our own greasy snack. It perhaps was not such a wise decision to handle sharp knives and hot cooking oil after consuming a number of alcoholic beverages, but we went for it anyway...and it was GREAT.

Our fries took only about 20 minutes and were flavorful and delicious. Here's how to do it:
1. Cut two potatoes into french fry strips, as thick or thin as you want.
2. Pour about an inch of cooking oil in a deep pan, and heat it on medium
3. Put a couple of tablespoons of flour, some salt and pepper, garlic powder, and any other flavorings you want into a brown paper bag. Add the potatoes and shake it all around.
4. When the oil is hot, put the potatoes in the pan (careful not to splash yourself) and cook them, flipping, poking and rotating so they cook evenly and don't stick together, until they're a nice golden-brown.
5. Drain the fries on several paper towels, then put them in another brown paper bag while still hot. Add salt, and shake them all around again.
6. Scarf them down ravenously, preferably with mayonnaise, but ketchup and mayo mixed works too. Yum!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Photographic evidence

It's a quiet weekend here. Nate is in Charlottesville celebrating his friend Nick's 30th birthday, and I am working on my first two papers for school. One is done (and was submitted this afternoon) and the other one should be fairly easy, so it's not a stressful time here.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and we hiked up Mt. Wantastiquet, the local peak just across the river in New Hampshire. It was a nice hike and the view was beautiful:

View of SIT from Wantastiquet
(See the white buildings in the center of the photo? That's my school.)

We're lucky to have had beautiful weather most of the time since we've moved here. Last weekend we picked apples, a fine New England tradition. Can you see me in the tree?
The best apples are at the top

I finally uploaded some photos from our move. Here's one of our long and narrow room. Thankfully, it looks a lot better now:
The main room

To see more photos of the apartment and our weekend adventures, check out my photoset on Flickr.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First week

Friday marked the end of the first week of classes for me in my re-entry into academic life. Actually, it's a kind of strange segue from work to school, because here we have one intensive course all day every day for the first week. So, less than a month after leaving my job I find myself on an 8:30-5:30 schedule again! But luckily the day is broken up into lectures, activities, group work, and discussion, so the tedium of all-day class is kept at a minimum. (Of course, it doesn't keep me from nearly falling asleep at least once per day). The point of the class is to understand theories about working in multicultural groups. To do so, each class is divided into small work groups. I got very lucky and got a really great, nice group. We work together well and have a lot of fun. That's definitely made this week much easier.

In our studies and class discussion of team work, sometimes I have to laugh because we are covering so many topics that I find extremely relevant to my past work experience. In fact, we even used some of the vocabulary that was used in a work retreat I attended with my department at Penn State this past May. Luckily, the environment is so different, that concepts which seemed completely cheesy and stupid when presented in May (to a highly cynical group of co-workers) seem to make complete sense and be extremely useful in this supportive academic environment.

In other updates, I got a work-study job at the library, which is good. It's not a typical library front-desk job, where I might have time to do some homework, but it's a very flexible job for which I can define my own hours each week. I registered for four classes which will start next week, and I'm pretty pleased with my class schedule. I have Fridays free and on Mondays my class doesn't start until 6:15 PM.

I've been taking the bus to school, which is really easy, and free for me since I'm a student. I have about a 5-minute walk to the bus stop, so that will make it easy in the winter when I can avoid driving in the deep Vermont snow. So far Nate seems to be enjoying being a stay-at-home boyfriend, with financial stability for at least a couple of months from his work as a Tour Director this summer. We picked up a few more items for the house yesterday, like a small bookcase and an ironing board, but hopefully that will be the last time for a while that we haul heavy items up to our 3rd floor home. We also bought a rocking chair at the Salvation Army and are pretty psyched to have that! I'm already envisioning cold winter evenings in the rocking chair with a glass of wine, a blanket, and the cat on my lap. Nice. Oh, yeah, and a few books to read and papers to write, too. But let's not worry about that just yet.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It's been a great summer for me, and there is a lot of news to update. I'm writing from my new home in Brattleboro, VT, where I begin orientation for a Master's program tomorrow. I was at Penn State for two years, which was about enough for me--I worked with fun people and enjoyed having students around all the time, but the bureaucracy of a large university was not a good fit for me so it was time to move on. I had a great summer in State College and moved away just as classes were starting so it was perfect timing for me.

Of course there are a lot of changes afoot here in Distant Wanderings land: the move brought with it lots of tasks like packing and loading trucks, changing addresses, setting up cable and electricity, finding the grocery stores, drilling holes for shelves and hooks, and the obligatory trip to Ikea. Although I've done this process before, this time it had a new and exciting twist to the process because I did it all with a partner. My boyfriend Nate decided to move to Vermont with me, and we moved in together on the 5-month anniversary of the day we met. I suppose that's pretty fast, but it feels like the right decision for us and we are loving it!

I am really glad to work together with Nate on everything from storage of pots and pans to measuring windows for curtains to scrubbing the greasy stains off of the oven and stove. But at the same time, it makes me pretty amazed at the independent woman I've become in my years of living alone. As we arrange the bedroom furniture I marvel at the memory of setting up the bed at my new apartment last year and moving the dresser across the room, both tasks accomplished by myself. I am proud of the skills I have developed over the years, like hooking up stereo speakers and measuring and drilling holes to hang things on the walls. But it's really nice, and a lot more fun, to be able to share these tasks with someone else.

Our apartment is "quirky" to say the least. It's the attic of a 3-story Victorian house, and comes with slanted, low ceilings, bizarrely shaped closet space and unwieldy "nooks" in some of the rooms that pose a definite challenge in the decoration department. The main room is about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide (although the ceiling starts to slant down after only 5 feet or so). I think we have done a great job at engineering the room so far, and it is now divided into three sections: a living room, a dining room/kitchen extension, and what we are calling the "sunroom" - a kind of ironic name since although the apartment boasts windows facing all four cardinal points, the sunroom's window is the sole window facing north and therefore receiving the least direct sunlight.

There's lots of work to be done, but I'm having a really good time doing it. We're also really excited to explore our now hometown, which is a really liberal, earthy, hippie type of place. We are only a block from downtown, which is full of little shops and cafes and a surprising collection of international restaurants for such a small place. One of our biggest joys so far has been the ability to buy wine and beer in the grocery store! After two years in PA, where liquor and beer are sold in separate government-sponsored stores (and in fact, there are two kinds of beer stores depending on the quantity you want to buy) this is such a relief that it almost left more of an impression than the wonderful farmer's market, the variety of activities and events going on around town and the plethora of hiking/walking trails accessible from just a couple blocks from our apartment.

This year promises to be exciting, challenging, probably difficult at times, but hopefully fun throughout. I hope to blog more frequently (but, luckily for you, less long-windedly) about all of the things that are going on in my life. I hope you'll stay tuned!