Dinner with the Boss

Last night, David and I had a conversation that went something like this:

K: So if your boss is coming to dinner tomorrow, we should probably talk about what we’ll be having. I have class immediately before, so how about I make something in the slow cooker?
D: That sounds great.
K: Which of these two recipes do you prefer? I’ve made them both in the past.
D: Definately that one.
K: Great.  I have a lot of reading that I need to get done tomorrow, and you’ll have the car all day.  If I give you a specific list, could you run to the store in the morning before you head to the conference?
D: Yeah, I can do that.
K: Thanks… By the way, I know that *Boss* is your friend, but I’m still feeling a lot of pressure about tomorrow night.  I have several generations of women behind me telling me that my role in dinner is really important.
D: Well of course it is; if you make a bad dinner, I won’t be able to marry you.
K: … Wait! What?!
D: Kidding!! I’m kidding.

Recipe BookTogether, we found this conversation funny, particularly in light of the discussion my class earlier in the day had had about the impact of feminism on the study of art history.  I also asked David if I could share the story with my Gender and Material Culture class the next day, should it be relevant, and he readily agreed.  Afterwards he posted an abbreviated version of the conversation on Facebook.

This is where it gets a little weird.  Some of our friends responded to his post as if David had been serious. David took the post down, because we have a lot of friends who are gender-sensitive, but it got me thinking.

From the outside, our relationship really seems to conform to traditional gender roles. David takes out the trash and provides for most of our financial needs, including the cost of our wedding. I do the laundry, take responsibility for most of the cooking and the state of the kitchen, and I’m planning our wedding.

Sometimes I help David with the trash. Very occasionally he’ll switch up a load of laundry for me. My student loans help with our expenses. David makes me dinner when I’ve had a particularly trying day. Often he’ll do the dishes.  Still, though, our roles are fairly set, and we often hold each other responsible for them.

Here’s the thing, though.  None of this arrangement is accidental.

While our division of labor looks like a male-female division, it’s actually a David-Kate division.  All of the assigned roles outlined above are the result of discussion and negotiation.  I love to cook.  David likes to cook.  Left to our own devices, my typical alone-in-the-house meal involves chopping, cooking, and arranging.  David’s typically involves pouring granola into a bowl.  I can’t afford our lifestyle.  Sure, my student loans help with our expenses, but the bulk of our financial responsibility falls on David’s income. I’ve committed to getting as much out of graduate school as I can because it’s the best thing for my future and our future.  David has a great job that allows me to be in school without having to juggle a full time job as well, so yes, I cook him dinner.  And I’m proud to do it. By cooking dinner for both of us, I ensure that we have delicious, healthy food, and I facilitate David’s long working-hours so he can take care of us, too.

What does this mean for dinner tonight?  It means I’m going to work damn hard to impress my husband-to-be’s boss, and I will continue to be a feminist even as I do it.


Three Birthdays and a Wedding, June 2012

It’s been a busy month.  June started with my birthday, which was closely followed by David’s birthday, and then finished up with a trip to Chicago to celebrate my cousin’s wedding, see the family, and have a quick visit with Lexy.

David and I celebrated my birthday pretty quietly.  I had an easy morning on my own, because David was in Austin for a meeting, and I drove in to Baltimore to pick him up around noon.  We dropped off his bags, and then headed into Old Town to shop for a bike, which was his birthday present to me.  The guys at Wheel Nuts were super-helpful, and we placed an order for this:

I don’t have a name for her yet, but I’m taking suggestions!  David got his bike tuned up, too, and we’ve been taking lots of rides together.  He even got me a rack and a basket that clips into it for the back so we can ride to the farmer’s market Saturday mornings.

We had sushi for dinner, and then went and saw The Avengers, because, let’s face it, it’s just plain awesome. My favorite moments: when the Black Widow takes a call during her interrogation, when Ironman tells Thor not to take his stuff, and when Captain American tells the NYPD what to do.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you should, and when you do, make sure to stay for the second “surprise” ending.

Renata came down to visit for David’s birthday, and we went to the International Spy Museum.  They didn’t allow us to take photos in the museum, but they had a giant box that would take a photo in front of a “spy car” and email it.  There were lots of people around, so you can’t really see the car…

Later that night we went out with friends to a bar in DC called Reef.  We played games and caught up and generally indulged in merriment.  David wore the fedora I bought for him.  (Also, yes – that’s a wooden robot that I’m holding.  It was another birthday present I got for David.)

The wedding we attended was for my cousin Mike and his (now) wife, Anne.  It was held just outside Chicago where Anne grew up.

The rehearsal dinner was at her mother and step-father’s farm, surrounded on all sides by corn and wheat.  As the sun set, I caught my Poppa taking his great-granddaughter Caylee for a walk.

The wedding ceremony was in a small Catholic church, with one of Anne’s family members officiating, and the reception was held at a local country club.  Both events were stunningly beautiful, with the bride looking particularly breathtaking and the groom looking pleased, but a little shell-shocked.  I didn’t get any photos, because at the ceremony I forgot and at the reception I was too busy making a fool of myself on the dance floor, but I found a couple photos posted by others:

The morning after the reception we attended the brunch hosted by Anne’s parents for their guests who stayed at the hotel.  When it was finished and everyone had checked out, my extended family caravanned out to Starved Rock Park and checked into the lodge there for a three day “Camp Duffus:” a brief revival of what used to be an annual family event.  David and I really enjoyed seeing my family, some of whom he was meeting for the first time. We played many games of cards, drank far too many drinks, and generally had a great time.  We also celebrated Poppa’s birthday with a fire, camp songs, and – oh, yes – shirts.

We’re heading home from Chicago now (I’m writing in the airport), and we just said goodbye to my friend Lexy.  We stayed a few extra days to swing up to Chicago after the family left so we could visit her.  We had sushi for dinner, spent the night catching up with Lexy, and saw the Garfield Park Conservatory this afternoon.  I found the Garfield Park Conservatory in a Google search for things to do in Chicago, and it was a winner.  We had a great time and spent several hours looking at all they had to offer.  (I would suggest bringing a bottle of water, if you go, however, as there’s a lot to see, and the rooms are very warm and humid.)

Enter the Blues, Atlanta

Well, I finally traveled for a dance event! It was awhile ago now, but things have been busy, so I haven’t been able to update. We flew down to Atlanta the weekend of February 17 for Enter the Blues.  It’s the first out-of-town blues event I’ve been able to attend since Austin Blues Party in July.

I took that Friday and Monday off work so that I could travel to and from the event without missing any of it, and as things worked out, I didn’t work Tuesday either, so we arrived in Atlanta Friday around noon and didn’t leave until Tuesday night. Because we had almost two full days in Atlanta after the event ended, we managed to see some of the city. Our friends Duane and Halley were also in Atlanta through Tuesday, so we climbed Stone Mountain and visited the aquarium with them.

In the past I’ve always registered for full event passes, which include dances and workshops.  Often, though, I don’t attend most, or sometimes all, of the workshops, so for EtB I just registered for the dances.  The result was a very good weekend.

The masquerade ball that we got all fancied up for:

Climbing Stone Mountain:

Resting on the climb up Stone Mountain:

Near the top of Stone Mountain (having lagged behind the entire climb, I was inordinately proud of myself for having reached the top. Moments later I discovered there was still a ways to climb to actually get to the top):

Actually at the top and celebrating:

And the aquarium:

Marveling at the giant tank that holds 4 whale sharks and 6.3 million gallons of water:

The Madness that was December

Well, I’m a little appalled that I haven’t posted since October.  I have, however, been busy.  I think a quick recap is in order.

In November, my family visited for Thanksgiving.  We made a turkey in my oven (!) and the full, traditional meal.  We also rode the metro (a first for Rick and Rose) into DC to visit the zoo Thanksgiving day.

Rick and Rose at the zoo in front of... something.

Dad, Rick, and David.

December started off with BamBLOOZled, which I was only able to attend some of, but the parts I attended were really fabulous.  We hosted a full house, with five guests for the weekend. One of the particularly nice moments of the weekend happened Monday morning when folks were heading out.  I made pancakes and bacon and chopped up some apples, and we had a really nice visit over breakfast. While I was cooking, I got a kitchen dance from Dan, since we hadn’t had time to dance during the event.

BamBLOOZled 2011. Photo credit to Josh Wisely

In December, Barnes and Noble was a madhouse, which was good, but I did have to work a lot of extra hours, and every shift was a busy shift.  On top of the extra hours, I accepted a sewing project for a math education program called NumbersAlive! which uses props and performances to help kids see the fun in math. I made nine 10″ number characters, which (I think) came out really well, and were a lot of fun to make.

Design Patent Application 29394059, Reg. No. 85333272

I did get an extra special gift for Christmas.  Right up until the Thursday before Christmas, I thought there was no way I’d be able to see my family over the holiday, but a scheduling glitch made it possible, and we visited David’s parents and my family over Christmas.  Both visits were wonderful, and made the holiday.  In addition to the usual visiting, presents, and holiday meals that one can expect when we visited David’s folks, we played a wicked game of scrabble, which I might add, I won.  We visited my family in Pittsburgh with my mom’s family, and I can’t express in words how nice it was to see my siblings and parents.  David got Rick a magic kit for Christmas, so we spent a lot of the visit being awed by performances of sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

After Christmas we drove directly down to Asheville, NC for Lindy Focus, the big New Year’s Eve Lindy event.  We took classes in Lindy, of course, for which I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in the Advanced group, and a side track that had fewer classes.  My sidetrack was Beginning/ Intermediate Balboa, and I really enjoyed it. I have had a few informal lessons, mostly from David, and mostly in our kitchen, and I can more or less follow a Bal lead, but it felt really good to hear the basics in a classroom setting with professional instructors.

Lindy Focus was different from many other events in that, instead of staying with locals (more than 500 people registered for the event), we all descended upon a hotel for a week, and the entire event was held there.  To save a bit on hotel costs, we shared a room with two other people: Brian, from Cleveland, and Tamar, from Boston.  I knew Brian already, but this was the first time I’d met Tamar, and it was really great getting to know her.  One of the downsides to such a large event is that it’s difficult to meet new people, and the people you do meet are from all over.  Aside from Tamar, I only met one other new person, a lead from Florida/ Puerto Rico, named James, who was so outgoing in class, I’d have had to be seriously unfriendly to not meet him.

Tamar, David, Kate. Photo credit to Jessica Keener Photography

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the rest of December caught up with me, and I came down with a slight bug that left me with a mildly irritated throat and a lot of exhaustion.  So I took Lindy Focus pretty easy, and one of the best parts of the weekend was the impromptu band that struck up in the hotel pub.  I skipped the main dance Friday night and decided to go down to the pub and read in front of the fire until the late night started (the evening dance was held in an annex, whereas the late night dances were held in ballrooms in the main building, very near the pub).  So I curled up with my Kindle and a hot drink and dove into Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  I got caught up in it, though, and looked up a couple hours later to realize that not only had the late night started some time ago, but there was a swing band playing right next to me and a lot of people gathered around to listen to them.

I'm sitting to the left of where the photographer is standing, so you can't see me. Photo credit to Bobby Bonsey

After Lindy Focus, I dropped David off at the Raleigh airport and drove home by myself.  This was a bit of a triumph for me, since David’s car is a stick shift, and aside from two brief lessons during the fall, I learned to drive it during the trip down to Asheville. David flew out to the west coast for another dance event and some work interviews, and I went back to work.  Two weeks later, David is home, and life is more or less returned to normal.

New Workspace & Dress

A few weeks back I was getting frustrated because my desk was too small and the space I had it in was too cluttered.  As a result, I spent most of my free time not at my desk.  A few hours at Ikea later, I have an incredible workstation.  My old desk will go to my little sister when David and I next visit my parents.

This set up also replaced a bookcase I’d scavenged several years ago which didn’t take very well to moving; it was all but ready to fall apart.  I labelled the baskets with small strips of vellum by tucking the ends into the weave.  I’ve also moved the crates around since I took the picture so that my Singer has a “garage” where the green box used to be.

One of my favorite things is this shelf I found on Etsy.  It’s meant to be a key rack with a vase, but I immediately saw it as a scissors rack with a jar for seam rippers and the like.

The many baskets and the wide desk space make it really easy to work on projects in small increments.  I’ve just completed a really fun and easy dress. I’ve had this fabric for 8 or 9 years now, but never found a use for it, because it has a slight shine that I’m not too keen on.  Except that it makes getting a good picture more difficult, I think the shine works for this dress; it dresses it up slightly.

The biggest issue I ran into was never having worked with knits before (and how did that happen?), so I didn’t realize that a ball-point needle is necessary.  I had some serious trouble with skipped stitches that no amount of adjustment would fix before I resorted to Google and found out that I had a fundamental problem that could only be fixed with a trip to the fabric store.

Conveniently, I had lace trim and buttons that already worked with the dress; I used those to add contrast to the fabric.  I also put a small pocket on the front of the skirt for decoration and the useful sort of pockets along the side seams.

I’ve been thinking of adding a second strip of lace (see photo below), but I’m not sure if I’m going to.  What do you think?  Bear in mind that the lace had to be attached by hand.

I’ve been working on several other projects, some large, and some small and quick.  I’ll try to get those up here as I finish them as well.

This last photo is of an item that was intended to be useful for me.  I haven’t been able to use it in quite some time, as it is inevitably occupied almost as soon as I sit down.

Scone Adventures

I’ve been adding new foods to our household.  Grape + Bean has bread delivered daily, baked fresh each morning by the baker at Restaurant Eve.  So when I feel inspired, I bring a loaf home.  This is the end of the first half of a loaf of multigrain bread that is dense, full of flax seeds and sunflower seeds and cornmeal, and goodness knows what else, but it’s divine.

A French bakery chain, Le Pain Quotidien, has a store near Grape + Bean that I often stop at on my way into work for a cup of tea and a scone or croissant, since the bus I take gets me there about a half hour early.  Their mint tea is made with fresh mint leaves, pounded in a mortar and pestle just before brewing.  It has given me a craving for fresh mint tea at home as well as crushed mint leaves in cool water, which is extremely refreshing.  Therefore, I found a mint plant to adopt:

Finally, reading the Russell and Holmes novels has given me desperate craving for scones, so I looked up a simple recipe for them and finally made a batch.  I used this recipe from AllRecipes.com, but instead of raisins, I chopped up apricots into tiny pieces.  I also added crushed walnuts and flax seeds to the dry mix and vanilla and lemon extract to the sour cream and egg mix.  If I may say so, they turned out beautifully.  The scones come out fluffy, but I like scones that way.  The crushed walnuts added a nuttiness that gave the base more substance that it would have otherwise had.  I would recommend either adding crushed nuts or using whole wheat flour.

EDIT: I also wanted to note that this recipe was super-easy to make, and it took 30 minutes, from start to fluffy-scone finish, including clean-up.  No mixer is needed, just a fork and a whisk and clean hands.

Ginger, for those who follow her adventures, has been working hard as well.  She’s been kept very busy making sure my fabric scraps don’t escape their basket.

Russell and Holmes

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks, but with very little dancing to report.  I’m working at Barnes & Noble and at Grape + Bean, so most evenings I’m at work. Although I’m thrilled to be working, I do miss going out to the local dances and especially traveling to exchanges.  It looks like it will be awhile, too, until I’m able to resume attending exchanges regularly.

Dancing is not my only pastime, however, and taking a break from dancing has freed me to spend more time reading and sewing, both things I have been passionate about for much longer than blues or swing.

Laurie R. King has recently released a new book in her Russell and Holmes mystery series, titled Pirate King:

As I have not yet read God of the Hive, which comes before this, the release of Pirate King prodded me into action.  I am sorry to admit that although I often cite these books as one of my favorite series, there are several books (of the eleven that are currently out) that I have not reread since my initial reading, some going back to my high school years.  Since I knew I needed to reread The Language of Bees in order to read God of the Hive, I made an executive decision to start from the beginning and read them all. I have thus far progressed to the fifth book, The Moor.

The Moor takes place on Dartmoor, where Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is also set, and refers to the original story quite often.  A little more than halfway through the book Sherlock Holmes instructs his partner Mary Russell to reread The Hound of the Baskervilles to see if she notices something relevant to their current case.  Since I’m on a quest to read all the books, I felt duty-bound to include a reading of Doyle’s masterpiece at the spot where Mary reads it as well.

I have to admit that my introduction to Doyle’s Holmes was less inspiring that I had expected:

“Really, Watson, you excel yourself,” said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. “I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements, you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.”

He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by his indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had made to give publicity to his methods….

“Interesting, though elementary,” said he as he returned to his favorite corner of the settee. “There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.”

“Has anything escaped me?” I asked with some self importance. “I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?”

“I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth.”  [He goes on to tear apart the conclusions which he had moments previously applauded.]

At this point I put down the book and returned to Mary in The Moor, justifying it to myself that I would get confused about the two books, so that it would be better to just read King’s account of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  But the second paragraph in sent me back to Doyle’s Holmes, and I read the whole thing through:

In any event, it was no great hardship to settle into my chair with the book and renew my acquaintance with Dr. Mortimer, the antiquarian enthusiast who brings Holmes the curse of the Baskervilles, and with the young Canadian Sir Henry Baskerville, come to the moor to claim his title and heritage. I met again the ex-headmaster Stapleton and the woman introduced as his sister, and the mysterious Barrymores, servants to old Sir Charles. The moor across which I had so recently wandered came alive in all its dour magnificence, and I was very glad this book had not been among my reading the previous weekend, leaving me to ride out on the moor with the image of the hound freshly imprinted on my mind….

I am very glad to have read the original now, and I really enjoyed it after I got over Holmes being a bit of an ass. I am finally understanding the references King makes in this book, as well as a number of comments dropped throughout the books about the relationship between Holmes and Watson.  It has also given me a renewed appreciation for the way King developed the relationship between Russell and Holmes, and the differences between their partnership and the earlier one with Watson.

The Russell and Holmes stories are all mysteries, but I confess I haven’t been much of a mystery fan since my grade school days of devouring Nancy Drew books. Instead, I read them more for the characters and dialogue than the clues and solving of the puzzle.  Therefore, allow me to recommend these books to you if you enjoy mysteries, fabulous characters, good dialogue, or the reworking of classic characters.  If you have read them in years past, allow me to recommend revisiting them as I am doing; thus far they improve with age.