Spring Cleaning

Apparently it’s almost summer, despite the gray sky we’ve had for most of the day. And it’s time for me to go through all the papers, old clothes, and random things (what Jess calls my “junk”) that have accumulated in our room.

But spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to the house. It’s also time to give this blog a face lift! I will be cleaning up categories, sorting posts, moving links and widgets around, and hopefully by the end I will have a more exciting, more easily navigable website. So please forgive any craziness for the next week. Things always get messier before they’re clean, right?

Best,
Ashley

P.S. Oh yeah, I graduated!

How do you say goodbye and hello in the same breath?

On Monday, I found myself wandering about on campus, over Leona Creek past the piled tree branches from last week’s windstorms, into the sudden warm sun by the Alumnae House, trailing my way between trees and archways of the art building.

It was only when I found myself standing next to the koi pond betwixt the first year dorms, where I spent many meditative hours and late night ramblings, when I realized–

I was saying goodbye.

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Convocation, Roses, Zines: A Quick Update

Convocation, Roses, Zines, A Birthday: A Quick Update

Whew! These past few weeks have been screamingly busy. I feel like I haven’t had a true “weekend” in weeks–if by weekend you mean that glorious mythological space of time where one can sleep in, lazily wake up and sip tea in bed while watching Netflix, go on long walks, and read books for pleasure, and never fully get dressed.

Fridays usually are the start of my weekend, but two weeks ago (Sept 26) I had to wake up incredibly early for Convocation, and despite my early rising, I missed the breakfast–just as I was about to eat my first bite, they told us to line up (I must have spent too long curling my hair). Convocation is a sort of pre-Commencement ceremony at Mills, steeped in lots of traditions. It’s a way to welcome the new semester, announce awards, and give the senior class a glimpse into what it will feel like to walk to our seats for Commencement. I rather like all the old traditions; it makes me feel like I’m going to an Ivy League school, or like I’m one of a long history of people.

Recently I’ve had a penchant for roses, especially vintage rose patterns and photographs. I adore the little rose garden in front of the Campanil bell tower on campus. There are so many colors: glowing peach, vibrant maroon, buttery pink, and that sweet sherbet mixture that looks like a dawn or sunset. I tried to show a little bit of them all in the picture. I also was able to include them in a recent project I just finished this morning.

I made a one-page zine! It’s titled “A Brief History of the Engagement Ring” and has both a general history and my personal history with engagement rings. I’ll be posting pictures, and printable PDF of it, and a how to so you can make your own. They are so simple and fun, and a low-cost DIY expression of creativity. Yay for self-publication! Be on the lookout.

Ta-ta for now,
Byrdie

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Keep Calm and Live Rowing

 

No matter how many years I’ve been away, I will always remember the sense of peace and calm that came with the perfect stroke. The stroke that made all the stress and sore muscles worth it. The irreplaceable camaraderie between crew mates because we were witnesses to our mutual pains and individual sacrifices and successes. There is something magical in that bond that slowly fades away when someone is no longer officially part of the team. That part stings. But I still remember those perfect strokes. Those moments of perfect synchronicity between nine bodies. The squaring twist of the wrist. The catch. The fierce kick of the stroke. The last pull to get maximum inches. And then those floating moments of rest, multitasking breath intake and a deep appreciating for balance. The perfect stroke.

Favorite Fictional Foods Come to Life!

I have discovered a new blog whose pages I’ll be haunting frequently. Do you remember reading Lord of the Rings and wishing you could taste Lembas or take part of the great Hobbit feasts? Or what about the Redwall series: feast after feast after glorious 10-page feast. This blogger/book reviewer is making those wishes come true! Despite a day job, they spend long hours researching historical recipes and toiling in the kitchen, making fictional foods come to life. Then they share their detailed, custom recipes, fully equipped with photos and delicious descriptions.

The Butter Beer recipe (from Harry Potter, of course!) will be my first try. I think October will be the perfect time to have a marathon movie night, surrounded by flickering candles, and mugs of butter beer to warm us up.

Food Through the Pages

 

Thoughts:

I’ve never really held with the idea that the Butterbeer in Harry Potter is basically some sort of cream soda. No way. To me, that’s a very American interpretation, with artificial flavoring, and so much sugar that it becomes horrible.

My approach, probably unsurprising to many of you, was to dip into the historical cookbooks for my inspiration. And lo, from the late 1500s, there’s a recipe for “Buttered Beere”. Clearly this was what I needed to try.

My first reaction to the finished historical brew was one of surprise: The smell doesn’t quite match the flavor, so the first sip is not what you’ll be expecting. It almost smells like a sweet dough, as you might make for cinnamon rolls, with that combination of yeast, butter, and eggs. However, the flavor itself is one of creamy, spiced beer, with all the residual hops and tinge of bitterness…

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My Day with Kate Hopper

(From my intern blog, Curious Confessions of a Cleis Press Intern)

Phew!  The last few weeks went by in such a blur that I only just collected my thoughts about it (some of the fog may have had to do with the impending cold that hit a day later).

Wednesday morning before the Twitter party I did some last minute inviting on Twitter, Facebook, and my own blogs. When I logged onto the Viva Twitter account around 1pm to start making some noise for the event, I was super elated to see that someone had seen my WordPress blog post on my personal blog and sent the info to a women’s networking and event website, which had  posted to Twitter! Of course I shared the tweet around. It’s so exciting to see that people actually read my blog and did something about it!

Kate Hopper came into the office right before 2pm, and we settled down right away and got tweeting! At first, there was over a ten minute delay. A little discouraging. Then the questions started coming through and Kate was typing away. We discussed why the terms “mommy blogger” and “momoir” are offensive and devaluing to mothers who write, and how men who write about parenthood are somehow more credible and commendable in the literary world than women, even though statistically speaking it’s still women who do a large share of the parenting in the United States.

After the intensity of the Twittering (Tweeting?) we all decompressed with some delicious cupcakes. YUM! And we got to meet Kate’s kids and spouse. The girls were absolutely darling, and I love the supportive family dynamic Kate has going on.

Then I just had to wait until it was time to leave for the Mommies Playdate at Good Vibes (Polk Street). Mass package shippings are perfect for a fuzzy brain, let me tell you…except the part where I kept forgetting to include the catalog.

I tagged along to San Francisco with Kat Sanborn–I had to carry the box of Use Your Words books, of course–where we enjoyed mediterranean appetizers and a glass of good wine at Dunya Mediterranean as part of the Happy Hour before the event. We were joined by Carol Queen (the other presenter), Camilla Lombard (GV Media Coordinator), Kate Hopper, and some others. We shared a deal between 3 people and got the Mezze Platter (falafel, sigara boregi, ezme, hummus, dolma, eggplant salad, haydari, piyaz) and a bottle of wine for $30. Food was incredible, wine was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable–definitely taking a date here!

At Good Vibes there were even more decadent treats to enjoy (huge red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting? fresh ripe strawberries?! cookies?!! heaven) and a tour of the store and sex toy history by an enthusiastic Carol Queen. The Polk Street location is home to the Antique Vibrator Musuem…very small room but a nice collection of historic models, some of which were featured in the romantic comedy Hysteria, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

It’s strange, but I think a lot of people don’t like to put moms and sex in the same context–even though sex is what made them moms in the first place! It’s like people think “sacred” equals “innocence” so in order for motherhood to be considered sacred the mother has to be removed from all indecent ideas. Way-to-go, sex-negative culture!

Despite this, Kate found an excellent way to segue and I loved listening to her talk. She’s a very sweet, sometimes bubbly person, and her sincerity is clear when she talks about motherhood and writing. She started off by sharing her own story of motherhood: how none of the parenting resources prepared her for having a premie, how no one, no even other mothers usually talked about the darker parts of motherhood, and how she found solace and a creative outlet in blogging about her experiences. She read a few excerpts from the book of her own writing–I was impressed by the distinctness in her style, the way her sincerity carried throughout her written voice as well. I was also impressed when she shared some writing tips and broke down some of her favorite tropes to use.

But why should I repeatedly impressed and surprised? I think even I had to let go of some predisposition to think of her as a mother first, and a writer second. Kate Hopper excels at both jobs, and yet she and many other writers who happen to be mothers and write about motherhood have to fight against discrediting terms like “mommy blogger” and “momoir.” After this day with Kate, I will definitely take her writing seriously.
You can read Kate’s own account of the day here, and visit her website at www.katehopper.com.Thanks Kate Hopper and everyone else who I shared this day with! It was incredible fun.

You can buy her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers on Cleis Press and on Amazon.

Cafe time!

It’s the end of my Spring Break, and where am I? At New People Cinema Café in Japantown, trying to finish my huge load of homework before next week begins. All my well intentioned plans to study every day and get this all done before the weekend went out the window and was dissolved by all the pouring rain and then frozen forever by the freezing cold night air. Yes, the weather and I have been having a love/hate relationship. I love cold, rainy weather, as long as I myself am not cold. And living in an attic, I am often cold. There is no insolation! Heat only rises as far as the top of the stairs, and then just hovers there. From the top step to the landing, I feel a complete change in temperature, from mmm to brrrrr. The top item of clothing in our closet is sweatshirts. The next is warm fuzzy socks.

But back to the café. When I arrived here, there were only a few people, but for the last hour the room has been packed for some large event, a “Clue” kind of game called “Escape from Werewolf Village.” Groups arrive, fill up the café, and then disappear up the stairs following a guide. A great opportunity for people watching…

…or I suppose I could go back to my homework. *sigh*

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Graduation Countdown

The Big DayMay 25th, 2013
College is over! I have my degree!
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