Photo Walk

I had December 26th off, and my friend Savanni and I decided it would be a good time to take a photo walk. We’d been meaning to take one together forever, but schedules have perpetually interfered. Finally, though, we had a day off with nothing else to do, so we walked around the Butler Park area snapping photos.

The morning started off cloudy, but finally the sun broke. After two hours of walking, I got some fantastic shots. Enjoy!

 

Marfa is always in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The holidays in food

I think I cooked more for the holidays this year than I ever have before. Or maybe it’s that Channukah and Christmas overlapped, and so all the cooking was lumped together in the span of a week, so all of my holiday cooking was lumped together in the span of about five days. Either way, I was really proud of the food I made last year. So for your viewing pleasure, here is a roundup of all of our culinary indulgences.

To celebrate the beginning of Channukah, I made sourdough challah, as well as this slow-cooker brisket. I actually have another brisket recipe I love, but it doesn’t work well in the slow cooker, and since Channukah began during the busiest time of the week, it was easier for me to prepare something in the slow cooker before work to have ready when I came home. The challah came out great, and the brisket was absolutely perfect.

 

 

A few days later, I made a lamb soup for Solstice. I’m not pagan and thus don’t observe any of the spiritual aspects of this particular day, but I do like the symbolism. I hate the short days and long nights, and the fact that the days are gradually getting longer is definitely reason to celebrate!

 

On Christmas Eve, we had latkes for dinner. I mean, Channukah was still going on, I had cooking plans for Christmas Day, and since latkes from scratch are time-consuming (but absolutely the best), we had to do it on a weekend. So Jon spent the better part of Saturday night making completely delicious latkes by hand, complete with applesauce and sour cream.

I'm apparently not great at photographing latkes. But trust me, they were amazing.

 

On Christmas Day, we went a little overboard, but it was completely worth it. We started the day late (well, Jon did; I’m a perpetual early riser and spend most of the morning working on poetry with a puppy cuddled in my lap) with a fantastic brunch. Jon prepared this sweet potato hash that is without a doubt one of the most delicious breakfast dishes I have ever tasted in my life. It did take a lot of prep work the night before, but was very easy the morning of, and completely worth all the effort. We cut the recipe in half, and we were full right up until dinner.

 

And on Christmas night, we had a lasagna, which took me well over three hours to prepare (but was totally worth it). This year (I do a different lasagna every Christmas, or at least I have for all the Christmases I have spent in Austin), I stuffed it with kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and roasted artichokes. Unfortunately, the roasted artichokes didn’t turn out so great. This was my first time attempting to cook them, and my instructions weren’t very clear. Still, in mid-preparation I snapped a cool photo of an artichoke looking like a lotus.

 

Despite my artichoke issues, the lasagna turned out delicious, and everyone had seconds (and in one case, thirds).

 

 

We spent Christmas with friends, drinking sake and playing board games (and cooing over Maxwell). It was a lovely end to a lovely cooking spree. And I look forward to reheating leftovers and not thinking about cooking for a few more days.

Welcome, Maxwell!

We weren’t expecting to get a dog for Christmas…and then last Tuesday, and a friend of ours of ours put an adorable chihuahua-daschund mix (also known as a chaweenie) up for adoption. When we found out he was already crate trained and had the basic commands down, Jon and I had a feeling he might be the dog for us (I’ve always known I could never handle a puppy that needed heavy training from the moment we brought it home; I just don’t have the patience). Amy brought Maxwell over on Christmas Eve, and by the time it got dark, we had a puppy.

So far, he’s adjusting quite well to his new environment, and only seemed to have the most minor separation anxiety. He of course wants to play with the degus, and they want nothing to do with him, but we put their cages up on card tables so he can’t get in their faces. Now all the pets are happy! Jon and I are totally in love with him. So without further ado, here is a bunch of puppyspam!

 

 

Goals for 2012, Part 2: Writing

As I mentioned in my previous post, I tend to be overambitious, and set more goals than I can possibly achieve. But I’d rather try to do all I can and set my sights too low. So without further ado, here are my writing plans for 2012, with my focus still on poetry (I don’t plan on this changing in 2012, but if it does, these goals can and will be revised).

Writing

  1. Write 365 poems
  2. Write 6 short stories
  3. Write 6 essays
  4. Finish a first draft of a full poetry collection
  5. Finish my one-act play

 

Submitting

  1. Submit my chapbook twice a month
  2. Submit 52 poems
  3. Submit 3 stories
  4. Submit 3 fiction pieces
  5. Submit my one-act play

 

Writing Challenges

  1. Complete the River of Stones project in January (these do not count towards my daily poems)
  2. Find a meaningful way to participate in National Poetry Writing Month (which is concurrent with National Poetry Month in April), since I’m already writing a poem a day. Maybe I’ll use the month to write another epic poem (“Another epic poem?” you ask. Yes, another epic poem. I know, you don’t know about the first epic poem yet. I’ll get around to writing about it eventually. But it’s a very rough draft at the moment.)

  3. Give National Novel Writing Month another try

 

Continuing Education

  1. Participate in Kelli Russell Agodon’s New Year’s Poetry Resolution Party, which Jon gave me as a holiday gift. It’s odd to say that someone gave me a class, but it’s true! And I’m very excited for the opportunity.
  2. Participate in at least two of the Wingbeats workshops being held in Austin early this year. I know I’ll be out of town for at least one, but I want to make it to the rest. Yes, I already have the Wingbeats book, but getting to do the exercises in a communal setting is also a worthwhile experience.
  3. Attend at least four workshops at the Austin International Poetry Festival.
  4. Find and participate in at least two more opportunities for further writing development.

 

Goals for 2012, Part 1: Reading

I’m going to start out by saying that the goals I’m setting for myself for 2012 are ambitious. And I’m not going to meet all of them. That will be in part because my goals will change more than once throughout the year. Plus, I simply don’t have time to do every single thing I want to do. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to aim high. Life is short, so I’m going to do all I can to make the most of it.

I’ve always been a reader, though since graduate school, I’ve mostly read for fun, without any specific goal in mind. I found that in 2011, I missed reading with some sort of intention. So I’ve set some reading plans for 2012, with an emphasis on the fact that my writing life is focused on the cultivation of poetry.

  1. Read 52 poetry collections or chapbooks
  2. Read 12 novels or short story collections
  3. Read 12 nonfiction books or essay collections
  4. Read 12 books about writing
  5. Read a year’s worth of the following periodicals: American Short FictionBat City Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Gulf CoastThe Kenyon Review, and Poets & Writers magazine

I’ve never particularly enjoyed writing book reviews, but I will want to share what I read, so I think my plan will be to do a roundup at the end of every month of all the books I read, with some way to note the ones I found particularly worthwhile.

Coming up next: my (very ambitious) writing plans for 2012…

Weekend Adventures

I had such a busy weekend that I’m glad my Monday night ended up being pretty boring. I needed this evening to chill out.

Friday started with a trip to Peche, to bid farewell to a coworker who left my company to focus on her music. I already miss her presence in the office, but I wish her well, and know she’s destined for great things.

After that, I headed up to Round Rock to deliver some Christmas gifts to Reesa and Nathan’s kids. Earlier this week, I had a great time picking out some holiday books for their daughter, and chose The Polar Express and Herschel and the Hannukah Goblins, both favorites of my childhood. I hope she loves them as much as I do.

Once we got back from Round Rock, Jon and I were pretty much done for the night. It had been a long week, and our Saturday was going to be busy. We grabbed a quick dinner at Enchiladas Y Mas and then chilled out with a little television.

Saturday morning was all about running errands, and then we met up with our friends Carly and Trent. I’ll be pet-sitting their lizard while they’re traveling for the holidays, and I wanted to make sure I knew the ins and outs of iguana care. After that, we went up to Vino Vino for a wine tasting, where we got to sample thirty sparkling wines and snack on some fantastic cheese. We’ve ordered a few nice bottles for the holidays, which should be in just in time for Christmas.

After Vino Vino, we hit up NeWorld Deli for some sandwiches, and then parted company for the afternoon. At Carly’s suggestion, we watched a few episodes of Louis, which I really enjoyed, despite not liking Louis C.K.’s stand-up. Then, we played a few rounds of Tetris Link (the Tetris board game, which Jon bought because I am in love with all things Tetris), it was time to meet up with friends at Opal Divine’s for trivia.

One of my favorite things about Opal’s is the hot cocktails they have during winter. Including the flaming eggnog:

Probably better than a Flaming Homer AND a Flaming Moe!

Our team did okay in trivia, taking 9th place. Which is pretty good, but not good enough for us, because we’re competitive like that. We need to get an edge if we’re going to do well at Geek Bowl in January!

Sunday meant our usual Torchy’s run, and then a walk through our new neighborhood (we’ve been there a month now, but we’ve been traveling so much that we haven’t really gotten to know the place yet). After that, I worked on poetry for a few hours before joining my friend Lynn to visit Reesa in the hospital, where she’s still struggling with cancer. I’m hoping for her recovery in 2012.

I got back from the hospital just in time to attend the winter solstice celebration at BookWoman. There was a lineup of fantastic readings from local poets and fiction writers, and I was so inspired by everyone’s work that I came home and wrote two more poems right away.

Tiff Holland reads a hilarious story.

When I returned, Jon and I realized there was no food in the fridge, so we begrudgingly went out to stock up on supplies for the week (curse our bodies, needing to eat). It was another chill evening, and the perfect way to wrap up a great weekend.

This weekend boats a lot of holiday cheer, since Channukah, Solstice, and Christmas all fall within days of each other. Hopefully when all is said and done I’ll get around to doing a write-up of all the amazing food I plan to cook this week. Happy holidays, everyone!

Exciting dance news

After nearly two years of focusing on west coast swing, my teacher and I have decided I’m ready to put together a competitive routine. I’ll be doing a pro-am piece with the fabulous Ben Hooten, who is a fantastic performer and teacher. I’m honored to have the chance to be working with him, and I’m exciting to begin this new phase of my competitive career.

We managed to settle on a song pretty quickly, and now it’s a matter of cutting it, putting together choreography, and devoting hours and hours to practice. I can’t wait to get to work.

For now, enjoy the song I’ll be working with for the next year or so.

Tracking Submissions: A New Approach

I’ve been seriously writing and submitting since April of 2009, and was briefly using the submission tracker at Duotrope’s Digest to track my work. But as much as I love Duotrope, their particular tracker didn’t work for me (they’re still one of my favorite places to find submission listings, though). So I switched to a spreadsheet of my own design, which worked find for quite a while. But now, 2.5 years later, it’s just not working for me anymore. It was fine back then, but I need something new.

Over at the Speakeasy writer’s forum, I put up a post asking for suggestions, and someone suggested I try Sonar3, a submission tracking software. Since it’s a free program, I decided to give it a whirl. For the past two weeks, I’ve been updating my market listings and adding them to the software, and using it to track my poems.

So far, I mostly like what I’ve experienced, though it’s not completely ideal. But the interface (though sparse) is intuitive and user-friendly. Manually entering all of my market entries has been a bit tedious, but not all that bad. It’s easy for me to see which poems are out for submission and which are waiting to go to a journal.

The only major downside is that it assumes I’m submitting to journals and not contests. When I was working with my spreadsheet, I had a separate page for journals and a separate page for contests. Having those markets on two different lists worked well for me. Sonar3 puts all the markets in one long list. My workaround is to label contest listing with [CONTEST] so they’re grouped in order, but then I still have to go and manually delete them so they don’t sit in the system forever. Really, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not quite as efficient as I’d like.

Minor drawbacks aside, this is the best new system I’ve found so far. The other option is to redesign my spreadsheet and create something of my own, but so far, Sonar3 seems to be working well enough, so I think I’ll stay with it for a while.

November Accomplishments

November was a tough month for my writing. Between moving, having out-of-town guests, and traveling to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, it was a struggle to get things done. But I kept my regular writing habit up nonetheless.

In terms of successes:

  • Wrote 41 poems
  • Submitted 13 poems (5 rejected; 10 pending)
  • Submitted the chapbook manuscript to two competitions
  • Continued adding potential poems to my manuscript folder
  • Managed to complete the move, despite issues with our old place and the various utility companies being completely difficult.

In terms of failures:

  • I did not accomplish that nonfiction project, because at the last minute I decided to spend November writing my horror story idea for NaNoWriMo….
  • ….And then I dropped NaNoWriMo. Oops.

Still, not every month can be perfect. Things happen. Sometimes life does get in the way. What matters is that I kept up my daily poetry practice, and thus managed to keep my focus on my primary creative endeavor.

And now for my December goals:

  • Maintain my regular poetry practice, which includes writing, submitting, and working towards the development of my next collection.
  • Actually write a draft of one of three prose projects I have bouncing around in my head.
  • Develop a new system for tracking my writing submissions. The one I had worked for almost three years, but for some reason, it’s not serving me well anymore. I want to experiment with a few new methods so I start the New Year off organized.

In which I finally realize that math is awesome

I didn’t like math when I was growing up. I wasn’t especially great at it, either. Not horrible, but not fantastic. After a semester of precalculus in college, in which I got a B through hours upon hours having the material re-explained to me in office hours, I threw math aside and never looked back.

Then, I moved to Austin, where I made friends with mathematicians, physicists, and programmers – all people who were doing cool things with math all day long. Over the past three-and-a-half years (I cannot believe I have lived here this long), I’ve come to see just how absolutely fun it is, and what it can do. Seeing the movie Moneyball on Thursday night only reinforced that feeling. I want to be able to assemble winning baseball teams using formulas!

It’s not that I had bad teachers when I was in school. But they were never quite able to make me generate enthusiasm for the subject. When I was solving equations and calculating compound interest, I couldn’t find the fun in it. Now, I wish I’d been able to see it back then. It still might not have been an easy subject, but I wouldn’ t have seen it as a chore to slog through, a requirement I had to put up with so I could focus on what actually interested me. I might have been inspired to really focus on the formulas and boring word problems in hope of getting to do something more fun.

So, since I’m not busy enough (ha, ha), I’m going to learn. Of course, I haven’t studied any sort of math at all since 2003. I don’t even remember most of the basics. But I’m going to re-learn, no matter how long it takes. And then I’ll get to learn the good stuff.

I’m excited. It’s been a while since I took up any sort of serious academic undertaking. This should be fun. Challenging, but fun.