Wednesday, January 30, 2013

resolute. late, but resolute

For the past two years my resolution posts have featured images by Anne
Marie Musselman, a Portland photographer. Musselman works a lot with
animals and conservation in her photographs, and I especially love her
series on the Sarvey Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It makes me feel hopeful.

Even though it's a bit delayed (sorry about that), I'm excited to post my New Year's resolutions here. As I've said many times, I love January. For instance, last year I wrote that January "feels set apart from the other eleven [months] somehow, a month of new beginnings and hopeful futures." Well put, self. And even though a lot of people find New Year's resolutions to be futile, the fact that I've been faithfully posting these for a long time now means I can look back and see actual, honest-to-goodness progress, and that feels nice. In case you're curious: 2012, 2011 (here and here), and 2010 (I didn't post resolutions per se in 2010, but I did post a book list and a sort-of bucket list). 

This year, I've been thinking about a lot of things I'd like to keep up with or change. So many, in fact, that I divided my resolutions up into two lists: one personal, and one professional. 

Personal List: 
1. Drink enough water. This is my always-and-forever goal. 
2. Eat more produce. I read a suggestion once that at least half of your plate should be filled with fruits or veg. I like that. 
3. Learn: A) To can; B) French. The French goal is a semi-professional one, since I have to take a language exam next October. Did you know medieval England was bi- (and even tri-, if you count Latin) lingual?
4. Perfect homemade pizza and crepes. I make these all the time, and always struggle. No longer!
5. Keep in touch. I made some (small) strides at keeping in touch with friends last year, but didn't do so well with family. I'd like to change that. Part of that keeping in touch will be blogging here: my new, not-crazy goal is once a week. Here's hoping I stick to it. 
6. Grow spiritually. I'm still figuring out what I mean by this. 

Professional List:
1. Increase digital presence by: A) Starting a professional blog; and B) Using Twitter and Facebook more professionally. I've already had some success with both of these. I started my blog and I was active on Twitter during a digital humanities conference. Now to keep it up. 
2. Limit internet idleness. Again, some success here! I use Safari, and I recently altered my home page  so the sites I see are professional ones. I'm embarrassed by how much of a difference this has made. Now if I'm feeling idle, I'm more likely to read the Chronicle of Higher Education than, say, the A.V. Club
3. Publish. My first paper is coming out in postmedieval this year, and I'm hoping (this feels scary to say out loud) to line up another publication by the end of the year. We'll see.
4. Apply to (at least) two major conferences.  
5. Get more work out of each day. 
6. Write daily. This doesn't necessarily have to be Writing, with a capital "W." I think blogging, either here or on my professional blog, Facebook and Twitter can all count. 

That's it! No big deal, right? Here's to a 2013 full of adventure and accomplishment. Happy New Year. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


(Note: This is the second part of a series on our December road trip. See the whole series here)

After two nights in Austin, we drove to New Orleans, where we stayed at our new favorite hotel in the known universe, La Belle Esplanade. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this bed and breakfast. It was beautiful and historic and interesting, we had it all to ourselves when we were there, breakfast every morning was beyond delicious, and our suite was large and comfortable. See?

This chaise was the perfect home base for paper writing. Every academic should have one.

The best part of our hotel, however, was our hosts. Matthew and Melanie were quirky (Matthew) and sweet (Melanie) and funny. Every morning at breakfast we spent at least an hour chatting with them, and every day they gave us suggestions for what to do that day, where to eat, and what to see. We quickly realized that their taste was fantastic, and so we essentially did everything they told us to. 

Our first night, we went to dinner at a little (but packed!) Italian place and then walked around the French Quarter. The next day, we borrowed the hotel's bikes (for free) and rode to the Garden District, with stops along the way for the New Orleans glassworks and Audubon Park. 

The next day was rainy, so we spent some time at a library (so I could work on my paper) and walked around the French Quarter some more. Oh, and we went to Cafe Du Monde for beignets, but that happened every day.

Our second night we also went to a free, very casual Opera on Tap performance at a hotel in the French Quarter. Again, a Matthew and Melanie suggestion. Seriously, they were The. best.

Our last night in town (we stayed three, and left early on the morning we departed), we walked around the perimeter of a big Christmas light show in Lafayette Park. We arrived too late to go in, but we still saw some pretty cool decorations. This one, obviously, was the clear winner.

I was charmed by New Orleans. I've never seen a city that was so passionate about its history and so proud of its unique culture. I can't wait to go back.

Next up in Road Trip 2012: The Everglades!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

deep in the heart of texas

Update: This post has been edited recently, since I realized my first crack at it totally sucked. Apologies. I will try to be a better storyteller in the future. 

(Note: This is the first part of a series of posts on our December 2012 road trip. See the full series here

This is the story of a trip that almost didn't happen. Shortly after realizing we were going to be in Texas for a wedding in December, Ross and I started thinking about how we could use seize an opportunity to realize one of our travel fantasies, a road trip through the southeast. For a long time we were excited about the idea, and even booked our Key West hotel really early, but then we started getting cold feet. Our plan, after all, was to drive 700 miles, which is obviously insane. In fact, we came close to calling it off entirely. I'm so glad we didn't. 

Our adventure began with a barreling, all night drive from DC to Allen, Texas (near Dallas) for the wedding of our dear friends, Katie and Evan. I was a bridesmaid (for the first time!) and danced all. night. long. 

After the wedding, the plan was for the bridal party to drive down to Austin. However, Ross and I left early to meet up with a friend of mine, a former GW student whom I'd met at a conference in Boston. This is Dan:

Dan was an amazing tour guide. He picked us up downtown, drove us all over the city, and came up with lots of fun things to do, even though when he asked us what we wanted to do in Austin all we said was "eat." And eat we did, with stops at food trucks, multiple taco places, and the flagship Whole Foods store for BBQ. The food was delicious, and the company was even better.

After Dan dropped us off, we walked down to the river. Austin has a massive bat community living under a bridge, and every night at dusk people gather to watch them pour out. Starting at about 6pm, we watched an endless stream of bats emerge from the bridge for almost an hour. They were still coming when we finally left. It was amazing.

Later that night, and at Dan's insistence, we crashed a Christmas party thrown by some of his friends (many of whom are musicians and otherwise fascinating people). Dan couldn't actually make the party, as he had to leave early the next day for his own road trip, so we really were crashing. But everyone was extremely nice to us, and we left feeling like we'd infiltrated the hipster capital of the world.

The next day we met up with the bridal party to walk around Austin some more (by which I really mean eat some more).

Get ready for a whole bunch of tacos:

That night on a whim Ross and I visited the state capitol, which was (surprise surprise) big. Also, there were lots of stars. Whole lotta stars in Texas.

While in Austin, we stayed with one of the other bridesmaids. Courtney lives with her sweet boyfriend, Trevor, and some equally sweet animals. I made friends.

Next up: New Orleans!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in review

Long-time readers know that I am an incorrigibly inconsistent blogger. Sorry about that. However, there are a few things I try to do every year... I try to blog on my sister's birthday (sorry about missing this year, love!), I post New Year's resolutions, and I always, ALWAYS write a post in January reviewing the previous year (except for when I don't). Behold.

January began in the best possible way: celebrating with friends (and Cassidy!) in Portland.

(Congrats on your engagement, Jess!). Resolutions were also made, I was offered a research assistantship (complete with office!), and I began to hear back from PhD programs.

In February thank-yous were extended, mushrooms were harvested...

Valentine's day was celebrated with chicken/veggie pot pie...

and Leap Day was celebrated in an appropriately 30 Rock-ian fashion ("Real life is for March!). February was also my most successful blogging month, with four (count 'em!) whole posts. Sheesh.

March was nuts. In March I traveled to Orlando for a conference, to Buffalo to visit a PhD program there, and we got to see the cherry blossoms at their height:

While in Orlando I was able to meet up with some of our dear friends for a whirlwind day at Disney:

In April I posted a recipe for happiness (I highly recommend it), and we celebrated springtime in Laurel by cuddling with Creature:

April was stressful because we didn't know what was happening with school for me. I'd been wait-listed at GW, and there were some issues with finding a funding line for me. However, this was resolved in...

May, when I was able to officially announce that I'd been accepted into GW's program. Whew! This freed us up to do some fun things, like celebrate my newly acquired Master's degree with dinner at our favorite restaurant in Baltimore...

and build rock pylons and take a hike at Harper's Ferry:

June was busy, too, but in a fun, adventuresome kind of way. In June I started working at the Maryland Zoo, Charlotte sent me a sweet gift from my beloved England...

we went to Truckeroo and Moonrise Kingdom...

I was able to be involved with the DC Pride Parade...

and we had an amazing camping trip on the Eastern Shore...

June also brought us the derecho and a fridge full of other people's food (which we did not eat, to our great credit):

In July we celebrated the fourth of July with our second year on the Mall:

My birthday was an embarrassment of celebration in 2012, with an outdoor movie party with friends (O Brother Where Art Thou, natch)...

A picnic in the park with Ross...

and an amazing trip to Charleston and the Disney resort at Hilton Head with friends:

Even the elephants got presents on my birthday:

Later in July Ross went to visit his parents in Chicago, and then our dearly beloved, fabulous friend Heather came to stay! We walked and talked without break for two days. I think she might have been trying to kill us, but it was worth it:

While we were waiting for Heather's flight to arrive we visited the air and space museum, which was SO COOL.

In August we celebrated Ross' birthday with duck fat fries and ice cream cake...

...we found our dream apartment in DC and started to pack...

and we played mini golf at the National Building Museum with some of our favorite friends.

In late August I started school (again) as a full-fledged PhD student and teaching assistant.

In September we bid (a surprisingly bittersweet) farewell to Laurel and moved to DC!

Later in September I traveled to Boston for a conference where I got some unexpected good news.

In October we celebrated our third anniversary with another camping trip and a pumpkin patch adventure...

and we celebrated Halloween by dressing up as, naturally, a gentleman and a scholar...

and carving pumpkins with friends...

Photo from my darling friend, Kim's, fabulous blog.

In November I totally failed as a blogger, we had grasshopper tacos at Oyamel before going to the Kennedy center to see War Horse...

went camping again...

and had an epic solo Thanksgiving, if I do say so myself. Which I do. 

December was filled with all kinds of adventures, which I will blog about in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here's a taster: 

Happy New Year! Here's to an equally adventurous, exciting, busy, packed-to-the-gills-with-life 2013!

Psst: Previous Years in Review: 20092011. So maybe I don't ALWAYS do it. Hush.