Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year in Review

Happy Countdown to the New Year, Everyone! I'm spending my New Year's Eve blogging and doing some things with some friends in Copley Square, all the while hoping that Billy Crystal* is running through the city streets to tell me all the things he loves about me as the clock ticks away to midnight.

I guess I can divide my year into five categories. Someone told me once, and I don't know if this is a real thing or not, but if you have more than five categories, you have too many categories. So here is the breakdown of my 2011, in terms of school, work, church, men, and miscellaneous.

School: 2011 was a very good year for school...sort of.
  • The good: I wrote a thesis, got my Master of Science degree in Forensic Anthropology, and got to speak at my graduation ceremony.
  • The sucky: I got rejected by lots of PhD programs. Well, not lots, only two up front, and one strung me along for a few months before telling me that they had no money for me.
The end of 2011 was spent fussing over my personal statements reapplying to two of the same programs from last year in addition to two new ones. With hope, funds will be in place, my applications will be impressive, and I'll get in somewhere. With hope, that somewhere will be in Boston.

Work: 2011 was the year of all of the jobs. Let's see, there was Jewish preschool, Fran, BU Academy, law office, and BU Forensic Anthro TA. That's five jobs, everyone. Thankfully, I'm only going to have three W2's.

Church: My calling didn't kill me, and I haven't been released! I see lots of more ward-choir-related wonderfulness in the future. Also, I'm taking Temple Prep (again), and those related things are coming together well.

Men: 2011 brought about two very productive non-relationships.
  • Non-Relationship Number 1: While the actual dating part of NRN1 happened in 2010, the aftermath occurred in 2011. It taught me a lot of things about the way I handle relationships. For instance, I handle them very poorly. The door on that one is closed, but I know now how to be a little more of a grown-up and a little less of a jerk.
  • Non-Relationship Number 2: NRN2 didn't end the way that I wanted it to end at the time, but now I'm very okay with the way things are. The events therein made me realize the things that I want in a non-non-relationship.
I'm closing out 2011 as a single person, and I'm pretty fine with that (if I were speaking this instead of typing it, my voice would get all high-pitched because that's what it does when I'm lying).

Miscellaneous:
  • My mom came out to visit me for my graduation. It was the first time she'd ever visited any place I lived, so it was pretty exciting and special.
  • I sang in a community choir and had an operatic solo in our concert.
  • I applied for health insurance for the impoverished.
  • I saw "Star Wars" for the first time.
  • I bought the most fantastic dress that ever existed and wore it on a non-date to a moderately swanky Christmas gala.
  • I was selected to present my thesis at a conference next year.
  • I painted my ugly stairwell.
Well, so long for the year of 2011, readers. Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind... What does that song mean? My whole life, I don't know what that song means**. Anyway, it's about old friends, and that's what you are. Wishing you a happy and safe New Year!


*If you haven't seen "When Harry Met Sally..." before, you totally should. It's rated R for language, but the edited version is on TV all the time. It's probably my favorite movie with a New Year's Eve scene.
**This is also a line from "When Harry Met Sally..." Seriously, take the time to check this movie out. Most of it is on Youtube.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Back!

Don't get me wrong, I love my family, but I'm so glad to be back in Boston. Whenever I go back to Pennsylvania I get used to being there, but there's always this weird transition vibe in the air, or a "disturbance in the force," if you will. Now that I'm back on my couch in my apartment in the Town, I feel that all is right in the world again.

Highlights of being back home:
  • I cooked and baked quite a bit. I made a Cranberry Pear Pecan pie with Pecan Streusel Topping, Orange Peel Cookies (that involved putting a whole orange in the food processor), and lots of fancy pasta dishes that were amazing. I tried to make a cinnamon pie with a recipe from the internet, but it was kind of awful and very unlike the non-awful cinnamon pies I've made in the past. I was all over the Christmas dinner with roast turkey and Pancetta Chestnut Stuffing and cranberry sauce from scratch (that's right, boys).
  • I watched way too much TV. It's not really my fault; we don't have real channels at our apartment here, so I have to get the network syndication in as much as I can. My mom and I hit up all the NCIS and Big Bang Theory marathons.
  • I got to sleep in the giant queen bed that daylights as the family room couch. Space-saving, yes, but it doesn't really give one much privacy.
  • I spent time with my sister. My sister is awesome. We spent most of the break watching old movie musicals starring Howard Keel and Christmas specials starring the Muppets.
  • I went to church in my home ward. They had their Christmas program on Christmas day, so I got to listen to tons of musical numbers using the incorrect choral pronunciation of "angel." It's a schwa, people! If you don't say "ain-jell" then don't sing it! Also, I told the choir director to tell the tenors that there's nothing shameful about falsetto. She disagreed.
That was pretty much the all of it. I'm definitely glad I had the break, but also glad that I have texting so I could keep in touch with people that aren't my immediate family.

Now that I'm back, be prepared for some amazing blogging. I've got a few things up my sleeve (and by up my sleeve, I mean, saved in my drafts) that are pretty stunning, if I say so myself!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blog Giveaway Over!

My blog giveaway has officially ended as of ten hours ago. This is not going to be an easy decision. There will be much hemming and hawing. I shall announce a winner after the first of the year! I have already compiled most of the playlist for the prize (I did this early as to not skew the theme of the mix toward any one contestant).

In other news, today is my last day in Pennsylvania before I go back to Boston. It's been a nice break; I'll fill you all in on the details a little later. For now, I'll just say that I pretty much outdid myself from a culinary standpoint.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Infidelity

Yesterday I succumbed to a moment of weakness. I'm very ashamed to admit it, but I cheated.

With Five Guys.

Oh my dear UBurger, would you forgive me if I said it meant nothing to me? That I was thinking of you the whole time? I was in a different zip code; hundreds of miles away from any of your three locations in the Boston area. I was laid over for nearly four hours; I had to do something!

It could have been worse. I could have gone with some cheap and classless joint like McDonald's or Burger King. The fact that I went to a place with freshly cut fries and malt vinegar should only prove how totally still into UBurger I am.

They didn't have your special sauce, UBurger, or your fancy napkins. If you can take me back, I promise I'll never look at another burger ever again.

But really, it was pretty fantastic. I'm still going to stay married to the U, but I'll keep Five Guys as my little something on the side for whenever I'm in the A Terminal of the Dulles airport.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Chrismukkuh Giveaway

Confession time, guys: I love "The O.C." Shut up, it's really well-written, and you know you secretly like it, too.

At any rate, this secretly works out well for all of you readers, as it has inspired my very first blog giveaway (because giveaways are things that blogs have to do now in order to be legit). If you recall, on "The O.C.", "Chrismukkah" is a holiday invented by half-Jewish teen Seth Cohen as a way to blend the best features of Christmas and Hanukkah. It's rumored to have "twice the endurance of any normal holiday." In the Season 1 Chrismukkah episode, Seth is torn between two girls, Summer and Anna, and decides to give them both the same gift (which, men, if you don't already know, is a terrible idea): the "Seth Cohen Starter Pack," consisting of movies, books, and CDs representing Seth's core values.

So here's the deal, readers: read this blog, and make a comment. If your comment is my favorite comment, you will receive the "But You Are Made of Bones Starter Mix," which will be a mix CD compiled of any songs that I deem necessary for you to know in order for our virtual friendship to continue (NOTE: music in this playlist may consist of tracks from any of the "My Music" posts, found here, here, or here). And just as Seth Cohen couldn't choose between Summer and Anna right away (he ended up marrying Summer), I might have two favorite comments, in which case I will make two copies of this CD.

I guess there should probably be a deadline. How does December 28th, the eighth night of Hanukkah sound? Good? Okay.

Good luck, and may the witty commenting skills be with you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A PhD in Christmas

I bet that in the universe in which Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and every year fights a secret battle against dark forces bent on destroying Christmas, one actually could get a PhD in Christmas (or Nativity Studies, or Christian December Cultural Practices, or something a little more academic sounding). I already have a dissertation idea:

"Determining the Coefficient to Calculate the Maximum Radius of the Cone of Influence of Phoradendron serotinum (North American Mistletoe)"

With such a coefficient, one could complete the following story problem and find out if our two stick figures (let's call them "John" and "Mary") are really "under the mistletoe":
Let's call the coefficient "M" (for mistletoe). There'd have to be some equation like this one:
r = M * [(Attraction Level of Party 1)(1/Attraction Level of Party 2)]^(-1)

I'm sure law students could join in the fun, as well. Check it out:
If John is standing within the cylindrical realm of the mistletoe (with diameter "d"), does he have the right to sue for sexual harassment if Mary kisses him?

The scientist in me feels the urge to buy some mistletoe and run some experiments in social gatherings, because nothing encourages holiday making out like a poisonous plant and a nerd with a lab notebook sitting four feet away.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Visions

If I were the type of person who cross-stitched, I would totally do this.
Maybe I am that kind of person but haven't discovered it yet. I guess give it a couple of years?

"Once bitten and twice shy, I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye."

Pardon me while I wax a little poetic in honor of the Christmas season. A friend and I were talking one night about our favorite things about Christmas. When asked superficially, I usually say that I don't like Christmas, but digging deeper, I do have a thing that is my favorite thing about Christmas.

[I must interject something: of course the best and important thing about Christmas is the birth of Christ, and I recognize that. However, as this is something that we (should) try to remember and honor year-round, when I talk about my favorite thing about Christmas, I mean my favorite thing about the cultural/secular/aesthetic aspects of the Christmas Season.]

The other day, walking through Downtown Boston, I had an epiphany: the Christmas season is like a hot guy (or girl, whatever your preference) that flirts with you but doesn't mean it.
You should and do know better to fall prey to the charm and the eye contact, but involuntarily, your lips curl into a smile and eventually, you stop minding. Slowly and surely you give in to the butterflies and the stolen looks and start to entertain the thought that something real and wonderful might be happening.

Such is the case with Christmas.
As one walks through Downtown Boston, one sees lights, hears holiday music blaring and the sound of the bells playing from whatever building that is with the bells across from the Macy's (the old Filene's maybe?), smells cinnamon-roasted nuts sold on carts, sees stands selling Christmas trees and wreaths and mistletoe and Salvation Army Santas on every corner. You think, "this happens every year; it's nothing special," but somehow, the combination of all of it stirs up wells of excitement and cheer and hope that maybe this year, you'll have the kind of magical Christmas you see in the movies.

And then, either literally or metaphorically, December 25th hits you and everything you built up in your head topples over and gets tossed away with the rest of the decorations on December 26th, as if none of it ever mattered.

I have this vision of a Christmas that couldn't possibly exist: I live in a house with a fireplace* and this beautiful tree and everything is color-coordinated. I sit on my couch in an off-white cable-knit sweater that also coordinates with the house color scheme. I drink tea and look out the window, watching the snow fall perfectly to the ground. Eggnog doesn't taste gross. Mistletoe fulfills its Christmas destiny. I know how to ice skate.

I have only myself (and this song, probably) to blame for my romanticized visions of a holiday that I have never remembered going well, but I still hope. I hope that one day I'll have a fireplace and a cable-knit sweater and someone to kiss me under the mistletoe and hold my hand so I don't fall on the ice. Maybe one day there will be carols and merriment and stillness and peace. This is the hope that keeps my heart from being three sizes too small† and makes me want to bake and send cards and see if maybe this is the year I've developed a taste for eggnog.

This is my favorite thing about Christmas.


*I don't have a fireplace now and never had one growing up. When I was little I used to sit in the utility closet with a book and pretend that the pilot light was a fireplace. Were I not such an odd-looking child, this would have seemed pretty pathetic.
†Actually, right ventricular hypertrophy is what keeps my heart from being three sizes too small.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Music: Holiday Edition


Because I am very strict about only listening to Christmas music during the Christmas Season, and because I went through a phase where I listened to Sarah Bareilles' "Gravity" a million times in a row this past summer, there is no Christmas music on my "Top 25 Most Played" list on iTunes.

However, because I care about you all so much, I went through all of the Christmas music in my iTunes library and found my favorites. Here are the top ten:

1) "Song for a Winter's Night" - Sarah McLachlan. If I could have one moment of extra-diegetic music in my life, it would be with this song. I already have a storyboard for it (in my head).

2) "Snow Angel" - Tori Amos. Tori's voice is just so haunting. It's gorgeous.

3) "A Snowflake Fell (and it fell like a kiss)" - Glasvegas. How could a song start out with the lyric "the breeze from the graveyard keeps murmuring death" and end up to be so beautiful and hope-inspiring?

[NOTE: I realize that these first three songs are about winter and not necessarily Christmas. They're still beautiful. Get over it.]

4) "Wintersong" - Sarah McLachlan. This is also the title of the album. It is my favorite Christmas album.

5) "The Wexford Carol" (arr. Richard Lakey) - BYU Concert Choir. Even though the accompanist comes back in in the wrong key after the a capella verse, it's still beautiful. It sounds like snow. I'm making my ward choir sing it this Christmas.

6) "The First Noel/Mary, Mary" - Sarah McLachlan. If it isn't already clear, "Wintersong" is the best Christmas Album ever, even if I don't already worship everything Sarah McLachlan does. She really shows off her vocal range in this piece. She hits low notes that I even have trouble hitting.

7) "River" - Sarah McLachlan (or Rachel Yamagata, I have both). I should probably look into procuring the Joni Mitchell version at some point in my life if I profess to like this song so much.

8) "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey. There are two reasons why the original will outlive the Justin Bieber version: 1) Mariah's vocals now aren't what they used to be, and 2) nobody likes Justin Bieber. Nevertheless, it brings out my dancing self.

9) "Santa Baby" - Madonna. This was my very first favorite Christmas song when I was little. I think I liked the way she said "Santa cutie."

10) "Last Christmas" - Wham! I think I really love the line, "I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye," which is a sentiment that I have toward the Christmas season in general, as well as toward other things, probably. More on that later.

Obviously this top ten list seems incomplete as I only based my ratings on songs I currently own. Maybe later I'll make a list about Christmas songs I don't own. I feel an onslaught of many other Christmas-related posts in the future, though. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"I'm not here for your entertainment..."

[Warning: Rant Ahead]

I've never had the patience to watch "Funny Girl" all the way through. I asked my mom to tell me how it ended one time, and she gave me an ending that turned out to be the ending to "Gone with the Wind." Therefore, as much as I'd like to, I can't make any legitimate allusions to "Funny Girl" with this post.

I am a funny girl (or lady). At some point I developed the ability to make the things in my head turn into things to come out of my mouth in such a way to amuse and fascinate. In many ways, it's a blessing. I've encountered lots of people who are horribly dull, people who cannot appreciate irony or wordplay or subtle nuances that make the delivery of a phrase something a little more special than just parts of speech thrown together to convey meaning.

In other ways, it's a curse. The curse of the "Funny Girl." Whether or not Barbra* ever felt this way would require me to sit through a thousand choruses of "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world" and I don't care to do that, but it's a curse nonetheless. Sometimes I wonder, do people actually hear what I have to say, or are they too busy being amused by my delivery and timing?

While I'm thinking of it, let me tell you something about my delivery and timing [Big Fat Revelation Time]: it's all a miserable accident. I hate speaking. I'm terribly shy, and the feeling of eyes and ears devoted to me does things to my sympathetic nervous system that true love has yet to accomplish. I am not Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby. This presence you speak of is nothing but a poor girl's violent attempt to leave the spotlight as quickly as possible.

Not the point.

I want to stop being the two-dimensional supporting character in somebody else's story, whose sole purpose is comic relief. On the other hand, I don't want to give up my wit! Is being more boring the only way to be more real? How can I change the people in my world from an audience to be entertained to friends to be touched†?

I was hoping that this would be one of those blog posts where I would pose a problem in the beginning and by the end I would have come to an answer. No such luck. I shall continue to be clever and amusing and try to let any hints of depth break through somehow.



*Safari does not recognize this as a legitimate spelling of the name "Barbara." It also said that "Gatsby" was misspelled. What little faith I had in Apple is shaken.

†Metaphorically. Gross.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How I Spent My Thanksgiving Break

Happy First Day of December, everyone! It's been a week since my Thanksgiving day of awesomeness, and I realized that I haven't updated anyone on my "vacation". Here's what happened:

1) I painted my ugly stairwell! It looks so much better (hello, much better, and soon all y'all gonna know much better!) than it did before. I did fall down the stairs and land flat on my bum (and then down to the next step after that and also on my bum), which was not very fun. My next project might be carpeting those stairs...or at least putting some adhesive ducks down.

2) Pillsbury cinnamon rolls basically just taste like Grands biscuits with cinnamon, sugar, and sugary icing. I miss Rhodes rolls. I wonder if there's a way to petition to get them sold in Massachusetts, but I'm sure a more sophisticated grocery store would have something similar. My grapefruit was red and delicious. The parade was pretty good. I didn't sit through the whole thing as I was cleaning and doing other stuff, but I was a fan of the 600 Stompers or whatever those middle-aged men in the denim shorts were calling themselves.

3) I did not get around to Legally Blonde, but Chris and I did discover a fantastic show called "The Only Way is Essex," which is basically the British version of "The Hills," only the stars are making even less of a contribution to humanity. It was fantastic on every imaginable level. There's a pet pig named Mr. Darcy and an old woman named Nanny Pat who goes to all of their clubs.

4) I made Chicken Sausage, Apple, Parsnip, and Sage Stuffing again and some yummy sweet potato casserole. I finally finished my leftovers today. They sadly didn't have pumpkin ice cream at the store (but they did have eggnog--just one more example of how Thanksgiving is being encroached upon by Christmas), so I got mint chocolate chip again, which I haven't even eaten half of at this point (if that's not progress, what is?).

5) I cleaned most of the things. And we bought cinnamon-scented pine cones at JoAnn Fabrics, so our house smells nice (much better than the Glad Odor-Shield tall kitchen bags, anyway).

6) I think we watched enough stupid movies. Chris and I watched something with the sisters Duff and the little boy from "Witness" all grown up and with a mustache. There were some really awkward kissing scenes, and coming from me, that says something.

7) I can't say that I took advantage of the holiday sleeping patterns like I should have. I was pretty much in bed by ten and up by eight the whole time.

8) Believe it or not, I was very sociable this break. I did some things with some people (I'd be less vague, but I've been sworn to secrecy). I was afraid I'd be bored and deprived of human contact, but I feel that I got the appropriate amount thereof.

In non-Thanksgiving-break-related news, I had a day off yesterday and I spent it roaming around Boston in the most sensible quest for a non-sensible thing ever. But I am in love with this non-sensible thing. Pictures to come, maybe.