Archive for the 'books' Category

Copious Cans of Curried Cauliflower

curried caulifour

I worked a Saturday night shift at the co-op, ringing up fun Saturday night groceries (lots of pints of ice cream, and ice cream sandwiches!), and got home at 11. I had bought 2 small heads of cauliflower to put up using the Curried Cauliflower recipe in Put ‘Em Up, and I decided just to go for it. I have a mixed CD from my friend and former roommate Holland called “late night baking” (the cover features a receipt for flour, baking powder, and chocolate chips timestamped at 2:12am); I suppose I could make a complementary version called “late night canning.”

And then I used a bicycle stamp to make the labels. Yay!

Also, gearing up for Thanksgiving, I made a batch of Cranberry Walnut Orange Mint Relish, from Karen Solomon’s Can It Bottle It Smoke It–a book I won from a giveaway over at Punk Domestics — one of the best canning sites there is. I am looking forward to eating this soon.

cranberry relish

thrift and craft

worksite accients

I’m a few pages into a book I picked up at a used bookshop in Rockville, MD–the book is called “In Cheap We Trust” (by Lauren Weber), about the idea of thrift, frugality, and cheapness. Pop sociology and good summer reading (I hope). In this into, though, she writes that “thrift advocacy has always carried a whiff and often a stench of preachiness.”

Let me state: I don’t agree.

This statement came after a bit of discussion of the need to patch and mend and darn when good were scarce, and got me thinking about the world of craft and its connection to thrift. It’s true that the two are not synonymous: there are big-box-craft-stores on the side of the highway with aisles Martha Stewart branded official scrapbooking supplies; there are very shmancy brands of yarn that are just another thing to covet or splurge on; even knitting a sweater out of reasonably priced yarn isn’t going to be cheaper than buying something new. But craft is thrift not in the sense of paying as little as possible for anything, but in the sense of being careful and conscientious about things and objects and materials. Advocacy of this sort of thrift is not preaching, it’s exploration of how things are made and what things can be used for. It’s full of wonder.

charming darning (explorations in darning techniques from karen barbe)

I also think of my rad friend Becky Johnson, who I had the immense pleasure to see speak at Etsy when she came through Brooklyn in June. She officially spoke on the subject of “Crafting a Well-Rounded Business” but really she spoke about what she does (tour America in the summers, selling her wares at craft shows and visiting boutiques and other sites-of-handmade), and how she makes it work. One of the points she made to the room full of lovely Brooklyn Etsy ladies seeking success, is that her version of “success” is a wildly different recasting of the idea that you can craft your way into a profitable business. Becky’s success is that she makes her life work on not very much income, in part because the principles of craft and thrift encourage sharing, reciprocity (she talked about being able to travel widely and have somewhere to stay because of the art-and-craft community she has cultivated), and a very different sense of what’s important and worth spending money on. Her successful craft business is not about winning at capitalism, it’s about existing on sort of the outside edge of capitalism.

(my friend becky)

I just read a book called “The Chairs are Where the People Go” by Misha Glouberman, and in a short section titled “Social Capital” he points out that artists and other creative folks may not have a lot of money, but they are certainly not “poor.”

I think this might be related the point that Weber is beginning to make. Thrift out of necessity is what it is, not particularly virtuous, just a way to live within your means. Weber’s feeling of “preachiness” is a similar sense of discomfort to Glouberman’s disapproval of artists considering themselves poor. In this understanding those claiming thrift or poverty are trying to set themselves off as different from what is expected of folks in their socioeconomic position, and receive some sort of credit for it.

Its true that the poverty of artists and musicians is different than the systemic poverty that really exists in our world. But the idea (and this is not the point that Glouberman makes, but is the point implied by Weber’s statement) that anyone who lives outside of the capitalist matrix is inherently smug about it feels really defeatist. Being able to take on a different mode of life is really valuable. Being able to make that work–through thrift, barter, art, travel, and careful darning of one’s handknit socks–is what is really exciting and inspiring about all of my friends amazing diverse lives and professions.


The image up at the top of this post is of the “Worksite Accidents” Gocco prints I received from Becky for pledging her Kickstarter campaign that she used to fund this summer’s craft tour. Here it is in its milieu on my kitchen wall: most of these things are thrifted.

worksite accident print

after august first

I have comprehensive exams coming up, which means that even though the semester is over I spend most days sitting at my desk, reading articles, and taking notes on them. Sometimes I take breaks to read books, or re-organize my piles or grouping methodology (I have piles, stacks, binder-clipped bunches, papers wrapped in large elastic bands, file boxes, and paper and plastic folders). I take the exams at the start of August and then I can allow myself a short break for some actual summer activity.

And I think that I might read Infinite Jest again.
infinite jest

I didn’t participate in Infinite Summer because I’d just finished reading it. I liked the idea of a schedule and discussion, so maybe I’ll follow along with it on my own. Reading on a schedule seems just like what I’m doing now, though! Maybe I just need the slow intake into normal reading.

(I also want to visit Toronto, go to D.C., make a lot of jam and pickles, and sew a Sorbetto top. In a blog post the other day, my awesome friend Kat referred to me as Awesome Person Who Does Things, which is the nicest thing ever, and I feel like I ought to live up to it.)

But Infinite Jest! It beckons! To be read all at once and not over a period of 3 or so years. Maybe my mom will lend me her kindle? Anyone have experience with kindle IJ and the footnotes?


we will not be shushed

Last year, Sarah Zarrow and I had a great time at the Brooklyn Public Library’s 24-hour Read In. In an effort to stop the budget cuts that would shorten hours, close libraries, reduce services, and lay off librarians, the read-in was a public declaration of how important the library and reading are.

Saving the Library for Dummies
Man with bicycle on the plaza

Though most of those cuts were prevented (well, delayed, really), they are of course on the table again. Every time I go to the BPL’s website I get hit with this splash page image:
save the library

All of which is to say that the read-in will happen again this year. From 5pm Saturday (june 11th) until 5pm Sunday (june 12th) on the plaza outside the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch, folks with take turns reading aloud. Last year people read stories, poems, recipes, and lists from John Hodgeman’s The Areas of My Expertise. It was a great event–good to be out taking full advantage of the public space, seeing people come out of the park or the greenmarket and wander over to see what was going on, doing something so important with such a charming, wholesome event.

The Magpie Librarian makes a pretty great case for why this matters and why you should come.

So does this puppy:
puppies against cutting the library budget

books on hold

Kornfeld, Kornblit, Kornprobst.

k books

All the KOR- names on the books on hold at the Brooklyn Public Library.

The one there for me is Dave Egger’s Zeitoun which I’ve zoomed through in the past few days. It’s wonderful and outrageous (as in “that’s an outrage!”).

putting food by

putting food by On one of the hottest days in July, I went over to Emily’s house to help with the canning of some jam and some dilly beans. On her dining room table (the one that has all the food on it in that post about Brooklyn thanksgiving a few posts back), she had a copy of Putting Food By — the classic 1970s (revised in the late 80s) book about food preserving. I found my own copy of it at Value Village in Toronto and was thrilled. How often do you find exactly what you’re looking for on thrift store bookshelves?

No-so-secretly, I’m excited that it’s no longer jam-making time…I’m a much bigger fan of salty and spicy things. I am particularly excited about making pickled mushrooms, pickled onions, maybe some beets, and some apple chutney.

infinite, infinite jest.

I losted mah place in th endnotez So summer is near its end and I’m nowhere close to being finished IJ. I’m just not going to do it. I am more than halfway through, though, and I’m not giving up.

I am, however, taking a break to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, maybe partially because I listened to him tell a story on The Moth Podcast about being stranded in a train station at age 16. It’s going quickly; but then, it’s a manageable subway-reading size.

While reading it on the way to school the other day, a man wearing goggles asked me what I thought of it. He said he wasn’t going to tell me his opinion, because I was just at the start of the book. But then, when he got off the train, as the doors were closing, he turned around and looked at me and said “I didn’t love it.”

the deeds were done and done again as my life is done…

I’ve been keeping a list on my arm of things to order, and right now it says:

  • Watermelon
  • Sugar cereal

Which makes me think of this:
Richard Braugtigan's In Watermelon Sugar

the reading life

I think that Annie Dillard is the exact literary opposite of David Foster Wallace. Short deliberate sentences, short chapters. Lots of divisions, of ideas and thoughts. Reading Annie Dillard, I’m finding it hard to put the book down, desiring to read one more paragraph or section or oh look the next chapter is only 6 pages. I think that if The Writing Life was a thousand pages and Infinite Jest was merely 150, The Writing Life would still be shorter.

springtime resolution

a photograph of my copy of infinite jest, wearing its dust jacket

Dear World,

Let it be known that I will finish reading Infinite Jest by the end of the summer.


ps. I have a large box of book that I don’t feel like I need to take to New York with me. If you want anything, from contemporary fiction to gradschool books about Canadian identity to kids books with nice pictures that will be fun to collage, let me know and you can come help yourself!

The books on our coffee table

go proverbs illustrated, and knitknit