TARDIS blue

Many of my life choices are based on two questions that I ask myself: What would the Doctor’s companion do, and what would the Doctor do?

These questions have influenced some surface-level things. Are my shoes comfortable enough to be able to run on a moment’s notice? If I were a companion, or the Doctor, is this the outfit that cosplayers would put together with painstaking attention to detail? Does this particular accessory come in a shade of blue that captures the spirit of all of time and space?

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I recently got a new bag. Vegan fake leather that can convert into a backpack and is the most gorgeous shade of blue.

But the influence runs deeper than that. The casual misogyny I grew up with as a result of living in a Midwestern suburb with Catholic parents has been undone by watching these companions be amazing people. (Martha Jones, in particular, is my favorite.) The choices the characters face are hard, harrowing, and thinking about what I would do in their situation makes me wonder if my standard of measuring right and wrong is perfectly calibrated. I’ve gotten it into my head that if I can’t make the right choices, then how could I ever expect to be a person good enough to be traveling with the Doctor? Or to be the Doctor?

For the most part, I like to think that I would be the kind of person the Doctor would take along. Just smart and brave enough to help out on a regular basis, and enough to keep him grounded, to remind him why what he does matters, and to keep him from hurting others and himself. I like to think that I am reliable enough for that job.

And I work hard to be that person more and more every day. I keep an open mind, keep finding more things to be curious about in the world, keep quietly living a life where I try and do the right thing, and try to understand what the right thing is.

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The Doctor landed outside a bar near my workplace one day.

That’s why stories matter. Though my craze for Doctor Who has died down (it’s not quite at the level of staying up all night on the sidewalk in line to watch “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon” in an East Village theater, which I did do), this show is still with me. I still try and be the person in reality the person I want to be in fiction.

I am still critical of the show. Whenever I watch an episode, I write pages and pages of what I thought about it, and read the opinions of others to see the different aspects I hadn’t thought about. I don’t take it on blind faith that this show is the end-all, be-all of how I should live my life. But the show still inspires me to think critically about the things that entertain me, makes me think about what I should do differently in my day-to-day life as a result of what I learn from this show.

Art should be more than an escape. It should provide you with some way of shaping reality into a good place for you and for others.

What would the Doctor say if it were otherwise?

This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Fourth Wall.

I’m a terrible bookworm

I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read and finished any books since I moved into my apartment. The transition was hectic, it took a while to get things organized, and I’ve been focusing so much on my writing that I haven’t read anything that wasn’t an OpenYale lecture transcript, a news story, or a paper in The Journal of Cell Biology.

But, I’m reading through Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. People in my office were clearing out their desks, leaving things they didn’t want up for grabs in a central location, and I found this between copies of style dictionaries and The DaVinci Code.

I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I found out who Neil Gaiman was during my first year of college. I really enjoyed American Gods and Neverwhere, and I remember one of my friends speaking passionately about how great of a writer Neil Gaiman is while we were on a bus ride from Sydney to Cowra/Canowindra. There have been numerous Sherlock/Good Omens fan fiction crossovers that were well-loved but went over my head, and many of the people I follow on tumblr have put together their dream casts for a film adaptation of the novel.

So, when I saw the opportunity to get a free copy, I grabbed it. I’m about halfway through the book now and I’m enjoying it greatly.

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My copy of Good Omens.

Still, I want to go book shopping/to the library soon because it feels weird to not have four books in my queue, and as much as I love using my tablet for reading free classics, I much prefer print books.

This post was in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Reader’s Block.

Random access memories

I’ve said for years that my memory is terrible, but I don’t think it’s quite terrible as it is just weird.

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The people in my office are cleaning up their desks, so things are up for grabs. This looked like it was something vaguely magical, so I took it. Maybe it can be my pensieve.

For example, I can remember the awkward time in high school I tried to prank call a friend of mine. I was with two of my friends in the parking lot of a gas station, and one of them was going out with this boy. Because I was trollish, I tried to harmlessly prank call the boy at the urging of my two friends; we were feeling a little silly that night.

I was in the back seat of the car of the friend not going out with the guy, and I made the call on my old LG Chocolate phone. I was wearing my seat belt and it was chilly outside, the middle stage between fall and winter.

I did a horrible British accent, and the first name that came to mind when I introduced myself was a classmate that we both knew. When I realized my mistake and that the call was an utter disaster, I hung up and dropped my phone in the seat, thinking (and saying), “God, that was terrible. What the hell?” It was a mess. My friend, the one who wasn’t going out with the boy, had to text him and say that it was me calling, and that it was just a joke. It was a terrible, though in retrospect, really hilarious, experience.

But it didn’t really have a lasting impact on my life. Sure, I haven’t made a prank phone call since, but that’s probably because prank phone calls don’t really interest me in the first place; the only reason I made the call is because he had both of their numbers but not mine.

However, I cannot remember, for the life of me, the brilliant response I had for this week’s Writing Challenge. I was sitting at work during my downtime, and I was coming up on something really fantastic, but then I got so hungry that I had to go out and get lunch. By the time I settled in to eat and write (as I usually do on my lunch break), the idea was completely gone. I sat in the mezzanine of the Food Emporium near my work, stared at the pages of my journal, and wondered where that brilliant idea went.

I can tell you that I was sitting at a small table situated on the mezzanine level right above a cookie display. I dropped my salt and pepper packet through the slots of the fence around the seating area. There was a strange smell throughout the time I was there, like something synthetic was overheating. The smell wasn’t enough to put you entirely off of food, but it was enough to distract you from your typical Food Emporium experience.

But I cannot tell you what my brilliant idea was. I have no idea what it was. Something that does influence the course of my life, since I care very deeply about this blog and what I post to it, just goes poof.

I don’t have to look far for an unreliable narrator in the fictional worlds I engage with; I’m already the unreliable narrator of my own life.

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Writing and my little post-lunch treat. I was trying to write myself back into remember the brilliant idea, but it wasn’t happening.

Today, I also read the transcript of a lecture from an OpenYale class called Death, concerning the matter of personal identity, and what it means to “be” someone. Rather than stay up all night thinking about whether or not my spotty memory indicates some identity crisis where I am not myself sometimes, and my true self somehow recognizes it by blocking out the memory and experiences that “aren’t mine,” I’ll instead point to the thing that is me for sure.

My writing is me. I have 20+ notebooks lined up on brand new Ikea bookshelves in my apartment, and every word penned (and penciled) in those notebooks was written by me at some point in my life. By extension, this blog is me, vaguely edited for grammar and filled with photographs that I take with my phone or camera throughout the day.

These things, my notebooks and my camera (and phone) are what make up my memory.

Question is, does that make me more or less reliable?

Even though this wasn’t the brilliant post I was planning in my head before lunch today at work, it is still a response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Unreliable Narrator. Funny, huh?

The hipster in me

This is how I spend all my free time.

I spent my lunch hour writing in my Moleskine journal, adjusting my black plastic glasses, and wrapping and re-wrapping a long scarf around my neck. With my handmade tote bag (a souvenir from a friend when he went to Berlin) and my all-black Converse sneakers paired with business casual attire and polka-dots, I realized something:

To the casual observer, I look like a hipster.

In my defense, I wasn’t always this way. In high school I tried to get the sleekest glasses frames, I didn’t wear skinny jeans until my brother bought me my first pair from American Eagle, I used to write in any notebook I could find, and my bookbag was a sentimental gift from the color guard moms.

But NYU is the most hipster school (at least, it was in my day), and living in NYC for 4+ years will do stuff to you. There are some hipster-like tendencies I’ve accepted as part of who I am.

  1. Small, non-chain coffee shops. I have an almost unhealthy love for dark roast, and I prefer the small, quirky, Mom’n’Pop, you’ve-probably-never-heard-of-them places because oftentimes it’ll be less crowded and I can sit and write alone in peace. (I get crabby when my deep, philosophical pondering to myself/navel-gazing is interrupted.) Speaking of writing…
  2. Moleskine notebooks. After buying one at the beginning of the last academic year on a whim, I’ve gotten to the point where I will only ever use a Moleskine planner, and I think I’m going to switch to exclusively Moleskine journals as well. So far, only this brand has met all of the criteria I have for the journals I want to write in, so can you blame me?
  3. I like how Warby Parker glasses look, and the next time I replace my glasses (which will be soon!) I’m looking to get a hilariously oversized pair of glasses. My face looks somehow incomplete without ridiculous eyewear.
  4. Last but not least, I am addicted to Instagram. I’m rather proud of my feed. I’ve only recently stopped being overly critical (though keeping those thoughts in my head) of the quality of other people’s posts when I realized that I was taking this particular social media site too seriously. (Though yes, I do still really like it and will defend my choice.)

Everything else in my life, though, the deciding question for making any decision is this: Is this person/place/thing truly making the world a better place?

If yes, then that’s cool with me.

This is a response to today’s Daily Prompt: Upturned Noses.

Home making

My family cleared out my old room this past weekend. They did everything from clearing the bookshelves to completely rearranging the furniture. My sister sent me a picture of the new arrangement, and I’ve been having a hard time picturing where exactly each piece is within the space of the room.

I realize now that I haven’t been in that room since January 2013.

I have left home several times: every time I left for a school year, or at the end of winter break, I’ve physically left my parents’ house in the suburbs of Chicago. But I didn’t realize that it had been so long since the last time I went back. The last time I really left home was when I left to get on a plane to LA that connected me to a flight to Australia, and I haven’t returned since then.

Part of me feels that a place I haven’t been in almost two years, a place that I have no plans of returning to in any foreseeable future, is no longer home for me.

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The most recent furniture acquisition: the beautiful bed.

Putting together the furniture that I chose, planning out things to screw into the walls, figuring out what kitchenware needs to be bought to be able to prepare every meal essentially from scratch, I was, and still am, in the process of making my home. There aren’t any real restrictions against painting the walls or hanging up new shelves the same way that there are in a dorm. A full set of matching furniture wasn’t already waiting for me when I moved in. (And I didn’t realize the importance of seating and a set of drawers until I didn’t have any.)

As my first apartment after graduating from college comes together into the semi-final arrangement that it will stay in for a few years, I realize that a lot has changed. I’m no longer dependent on my parents. (They can’t claim me as a dependent when they’re doing their taxes, anyway.) I’m making my own income, handling my responsibilities. I know New York City better than I have ever really known my hometown.

Now, New York City is my home.

SNAP Pledge: Day seven

At the end of this week, I have basically completely run out of groceries. I’m on my last bit of tofu, eggs, and bread, the last of the oatmeal was used this morning, and I no longer have vegetable stock, broccoli, or onions. The honey is running low. Tomorrow morning I’ll have to grab breakfast on the go, though tonight I have made my lunch of fried rice and green beans. After work, I will be grabbing groceries from Chinatown.

And that is how I end my SNAP Pledge week.

In many ways, this week wasn’t much of a deviation from other weeks. I usually make all of my meals, so the cooking and cleaning and setting aside money for groceries part wasn’t hard. My meals are fairly simple to make and don’t require very many ingredients. On top of that, cooking, for me, has become a sort of calming activity. I like the aroma of fresh garlic browning in the pan for fried rice, the texture of battered tofu for frying, even the sting of onions while I’m cutting them. The times when I order something to eat are times when I am feeling well and truly lazy.

But, having a limited budget took away options. I no longer had the option to order food or go to a restaurant. If I didn’t make lunch for the day, then I was going hungry that day during work. I couldn’t really make second helpings of anything if I was still hungry. I couldn’t go out to eat with friends or have a drink with coworkers. If I ran out of something this week, I couldn’t replenish it. Not being able to pay for convenience was surprisingly difficult to shake.

However, at the end of the week, I realized that the occasional bagel sandwich from the deli adds up. It’s not only occasional, it happens any time I oversleep, or didn’t get a chance to do the dishes, or ran out of a particular ingredient before the next scheduled shopping trip. And these little things that push me toward making the decision to get something from a food vendor happen more often than I would like.

One of the posts on the Rescuing Leftover Cuisine blog said something that summed up the biggest lesson I learned from this: “Your daily food budget is allocated for survival, not pleasure.” Though ultimately yes, food is just another thing we need to survive, how would it be if one day you couldn’t afford your favorite dish? How would it be if you could no longer spend time with your friends going out for drinks or dinner? How would it be if food couldn’t be part of your celebrations?

I am incredibly lucky to have so many options available to me. I am lucky that I have the flexibility to basically buy whatever food I want, whenever I want it. Without that freedom, life was quite a bit harder.

With the end of this pledge, I have grown more understanding of the struggle that 46.5 million Americans undergo every day. Not many people think a whole lot about their food, but this has made me consider things in a new light.

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My dinner today. Fried rice using leftover rice from last night, battered tofu fried with soy sauce and orange marmalade. Delicious.

I have completed Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s SNAP Pledge. Though the official pledge dates are over, I encourage you to take on the challenge and live on just $5 of food a day for a week to gain some understanding about food insecurity in the US. Visit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine for more information of food waste and food insecurity, and to learn what you can do to rescue leftover food.

SNAP Pledge: Lazy day

Today was a bit of a lazy day. I stayed in and wrote and cooked quite a bit. Oatmeal with honey for breakfast, egg-in-a-hole for lunch. The highlight is this sort of impromptu tofu dish I made for dinner.

I coated bits of tofu with egg and then a flour mixture that had salt and basil. I fried the coated tofu in a little bit of soy sauce and olive oil when needed so that the coating didn’t stick to the pan. I added orange marmalade when the tofu was golden brown and it melted into a delicious sweet note with the saltiness of the coating.

Serve over rice and steamed vegetables and voilĂ ! Deliciousness.

Tomorrow is the last day of this pledge, and what a week it has been.

I’m taking Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s Snap Pledge to live on $5 a day for seven days. Here’s a link to my previous post. Visit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to find out more about food waste and food insecurity in New York City and around the world.

SNAP Pledge: From scratch

I had this idea that today I would try and make pasta from scratch, and I honestly don’t think I’ll be buying pre-made pasta again. Considering how surprisingly expensive pasta can be, it was nice to realize that making fresh pasta is extremely simple.

Don’t get me wrong; it is an incredibly time- and labor-intensive process, but it’s definitely worth it. With just three ingredients (two different kinds of flour and some water), my boyfriend and I can make as much pasta as we want, for a smaller price.

To make the pasta, I used equal parts unbleached all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour (a little less than one cup each). I put the flour into a mound on a cutting board, then made a well in the center with my fingertips. I placed a little less than one cup of water into the well in the middle, being careful not to have it overflow. I then added the flour around it slowly with a fork, until it started forming a wet mass in the middle.

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Flour mound with water, slowly combining the water and flour.

When a mass started to form in the middle, I combined the rest of the flour with the water and formed a ball. If the mixture was too dry, I added more water. If it was too wet, I added more flour. I kneaded it until it formed a ball that didn’t stick to my hands, and sprang back somewhat when I pressed it with my finger. I then let the ball sit covered for about 8-10 minutes.

After it sat for a while, I sliced off a part of the ball, floured up my cutting board, and rolled out the dough until it was pretty thin. I sprinkled more flour, then loosely folded it to make it easier for cutting, and cut the roll to the desired width of noodle.

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Things organized neatly.

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Fresh, uncooked pasta. Unsure what shape this is, but it is delicious.

The fresh pasta boiled faster than usual, and though the making of the dough was hard work, the fresh dish made it worth it in the end.

With just two days left of this pledge, I learned more about food and my relationship with food than I anticipated. This experience has so far changed my habits and my mindset while food shopping, and it would not have been possible if I hadn’t taken on this pledge.

Here’s to more lessons to learn.

I’m taking Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s SNAP Pledge to live on $5 a day. Here’s the link to my previous post. Visit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine for more information about food waste and food insecurity in New York City and around the world.

SNAP Pledge: Don’t be lazy

Today’s food: oatmeal (with brown sugar, butter, and raisins), a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple slices with honey, two mini cupcakes from Magnolia bakery that a coworker brought to share, and some spaghetti with homemade sauce (made from tomato paste, some herbs, and olive oil.)

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Today's lunch consisting of some childhood favorites.

When I woke up this morning, I got a little bit of a late start. I stayed up a little later than I meant to, stayed in bed a little later than I meant to, and was a little late in getting out the door and onto the subway to work. I was tempted to skip packing a lunch and get something cheap from Food Emporium near my workplace. (A cheese and fruit sampler is only around $2. Worth it, right?)

But, alas, I couldn’t be absolutely certain of the prices in the meals to go section, so I packed something quick.

I knew that cutting out convenient food would be the most difficult part of this challenge, but I never realized how much I really depended on it. If I wasn’t motivated to pack lunch this morning, I would have been more than happy to leave the house and spend a few dollars on something from the food places nearby.

Cutting out buying lunch food has made realize something else. I keep track of my finances in a little book, and I had the sudden realization that I haven’t spent any money since getting groceries this Monday. Normally, I have some financial transaction to log every other day, and normally it’s a quick purchase from a food vendor, but not this week.

This week so far has made me realize just how much I spend on food, and where much of that food money is going. The day-to-day purchases of snacks and lunch food add up, and that’s something that I’ve never seriously confronted before.

I’m taking Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s SNAP Pledge to live on $5 a day for seven days. Here’s a link to my previous post. Visit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to learn more about food waste and food insecurity in New York City and around the world.

SNAP Pledge: The Value

For the past week I’ve been reading the lecture transcripts in my downtime at work for an OpenYale course called The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food.

Today, I got to Lecture 6, “The Culture and the Remarkable Plasticity of Eating.” Within this lecture, Professor Kelly Brownell talked about the culture surrounding food in different countries. On the topic of America and eating out at restaurants, he remarked, “It is considered a success if you get a huge amount of food, but not for too much money.”

Upon reading this, I immediately thought of a commercial I saw in 2008 about the KFC family meal challenge. The commercial showed a white mother and her two kids shopping for the ingredients needed for a fried chicken dinner. In the commercial, the total came out to be more than the cost of a KFC Family Meal combo, so they all skipped off to KFC and enjoyed their value meal.

The ad strategically glosses over two main points. One, many of the ingredients needed for fried chicken are likely staples already found in a family’s pantry. I would hope that you don’t need to get a brand new five-pound bag of flour or a new gallon of oil whenever you want to make fried chicken. Two, many of these ingredients are usable beyond just the one meal. With the spices needed for fried chicken, you’ll be able to make several fried chicken dinners from the one time you have to buy them.

For a person on a SNAP budget, it is certainly a success to get a lot of food for cheap. If you can only spend $5 a day, you want your food to last. Leftovers become invaluable. (Like today, my boyfriend and I brought the leftovers from last night’s pasta dinner to work for lunch. Yum!) But fast food is not the way to go to get the most value.

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Today's leftover pasta lunch!

The rest of the lecture talks more about the nuance of what it says about Americans in general and our relationship with food when having a lot for a little is the ideal. I definitely recommend giving the whole lecture a listen, and to take the class itself. (And take advantage of OpenYale!)

I’m taking Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s SNAP pledge to live on $5 of food a day for seven days. Here’s a link to my previous post. Visit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to learn more about food waste and food insecurity in New York City and around the world.