At home and in LA with Elizabeth, a blur of snacks, books, naps, and pictures of Watson. 

In Santa Barbara: tacos, sand, and music halls that look like they were made of cookies. I’m crossing my fingers for more summers in Montecito, sharing a beach with Oprah. 

Unpictured: 

  • That time Watson, a baby corgi, and a frenchie chased each other down the beach. Basically the ultimate stubby-puppy trifecta.
  • That day Erica, Valerie, and Elizabeth came to visit and we packed several days of wine tasting, beach-going, and eating things into one. 
  • Relatedly, Watson joining us for all of the wine tasting in the Funk Zone. Thanks for being the dog friendliest, Santa Barbara!
  • That time our jaws DROPPED watching the auction at a gala climb into the $30K range. Though, for an evening with Carol Burnett, that’s reasonable? 
  • Hanging out with percussionists in the back, and having one of the Music Academy fellows whisper to me, “all of Conor’s students LOVE him.” Awwwww…
  • Oprah

Watson meets the Pacific Ocean and has mixed feelings. 

Lummi Island: perfection from sunrise to sunset and all the hours in-between. 

Garden update: Loganita Farm edition

Before dinner, Blaine took us on a tour of Loganita Farm. Managed by my new gardening idol, Mary von Krusenstiern, the farm supplies 100% of the produce for The Willow’s Inn; if there are no onions growing, then no onions are used. Currently, Blaine and his chefs are working on dishes featuring squash and eggplant. 

While there, we picked nasturtium flowers to be served that night and shared a beautiful tomato. 

Dinner at Willow’s Inn

In describing our dinner at Willow’s Inn, I try to explain that every dish is sort of like — stay with me here — being a giant bear with giant paws. So I’m a bear and I’m wandering through the island and I see some berries. Since I’m a bear, I’m not going to pick them off one by one; I’m going to grab the whole branch, and take a big bite. That bite will have berries, leaves, and maybe some nearby flowers. If I eat a lamb, I will likely get some grass, too. And maybe I dig up a potato, but there’s still some smelt on my paws, so that works out well for me.

Then, after failing to sell this absurd comparison, I mostly wave my hands around in a way that says, “I have no words.” 

There were eighteen different food events. This is what happened. 

Conor and I have spent much of the summer apart. While I’ve been in New York, he’s been performing and teaching in Charleston, Santa Barbara, New Mexico, and Pittsburgh. Though we have a successful arsenal of long distance relationship coping mechanisms, this was, well, not the best. Fortunately, we had the brightest light at the end of the tunnel — visiting Conor’s cousin Blaine and his fiancé Raquel on Lummi Island, WA. 

Lummi Island is a stunning, magical place. It is also home to Blaine’s restaurant, Willow’s Inn. While our dinner there was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip, every single day was like wandering through some dreamy best version of our happy places. We threw rocks at rocks; picked blackberries; and climbed mountains with Sophie and Susie, Watson’s fluffy cousins. Raquel showed us how to find agates and Blaine made us salmon. We ate salads at 1am and biscuits near to noon. One night, we all fell asleep for three hours waiting for Blaine to get home from work. Then, woke up to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and watch strange percussion videos. I think we saw a seal and I think some of the sheep looked like cows. We talked about Watson too often and made lots of promises to bring him with us in the future. 

On our last morning, we woke to find that the bright sunshine of the previous days had faded to misty shades of gray. “It feels like Ireland,” I said. 

"We should go to Ireland," Conor said. And then a second later: "or, come back here. We should probably come back here." 

Garden update: My mom’s garden edition!

Setting aside jealousies over Californian weather and an actual yard, I’ve been eyeing those sweet potato leaves and goji berries. Both are difficult to find fresh, and the flavor payoff is high. 

Bookmarked garden goal for next year, growing more Asian plants. 

I went to Hunter College last week to meet some of the librarians; they’ve been getting together over the summer to talk about instruction and graciously invited me to join their conversation. I suffer from big time impostor syndrome, especially when it comes to my area of research. The work we’re doing is exciting and feels meaningful, but I’m joining collaborators who have been working together for eight years. It’s also drawn unexpected attention in the last year due to being cited in ACRL’s drafts of the new framework for information literacy for higher education. Much of my anxiousness falls away once we start really talking about Threshold Concepts, and I’m so grateful to have such generous and thoughtful colleagues within CUNY. 

After briefly admiring the view from their pedestrian bridge, I went to Dylan’s Candy Bar. It was total chaos. Everywhere I wandered, I could hear those familiar negotiations taking place. “No, no, let’s not get gumballs. How about fruit snacks?” “Honey, can you make sure they don’t get too crazy with the jelly beans?” “You can each pick out a lollipop and one other thing.” 

Sure, it was sort of embarrassing to be there alone, waiting for my turn at the sour tape bin, but it was also a power rush as I realized, “I AM AN ADULT. I CAN BUY AND EAT AS MUCH CANDY AS I WANT.” I’ve already used most of my Flexible Spending Account balance on a cavity filling from March, though, so I kept things reasonable. 

Dental insurance limitations notwithstanding, I wish I could tell my childhood self that our adult life leads to a fluffy Conor and even fluffier Watson in Brooklyn, librarian meetings in Manhattan, and access to seven different grapefruit flavored gummies. 

The minute I read Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for brownie ice cream sandwiches, it seemed obvious: of course you should make ice cream sandwiches from brownies. Of course this should happen, immediately

Q

Anonymous asked:

Agree with you about Henrietta Lacks. You should check out a really great podcast that NPR's RadioLab put together. They actually have two versions - one specifically around touching base with the family and all the weird drama around that and another on tumors that features her story. It's really well done and it's a great excuse to check out RadioLab if you haven't already.

A

Thank you! I love RadioLab and their storytelling style (excepting the “yellow rain” story), but those episodes weren’t on my radar. I went into a long Google spiral after finishing the book, but I bet those episodes will be more satisfying. 

Books in July: 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I flew through half of this book at top speed while proctoring a math exam, and read the rest when I returned home that night. It was engrossing, satisfying, and frustrating in the best ways. 

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: This is a magical, transporting, exciting adventure story set against Chinese traditions and folklore. I was vaguely familiar with the funeral rites / world of the dead mentioned here, but even if you are not, you will acclimate quickly. This was a great reading month, but The Ghost Bride is the book I would most recommend to just about everyone.  

The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods: Pop non-fiction at its very best, and gave me lots of dog-centric anecdotes to work into conversations. Hare and Woods make a strong argument against breed stereotypes (both positive and negative), highlighting all of the remarkable ways dogs and humans have found their way to one another. I finished the book extra grateful for Watson, the rescue that took him in, and every person who has ever adopted or will adopt a dog from a shelter. 

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: Recommended by Elizabeth, I read much of this book on the train between NY and Philadelphia, where it felt like Spirit-in-the-Woods could be hiding behind any stretch of forest. It has been compared to The Marriage Plot in other reviews, which is fair. Both are dismantling narrative convention, be it the marriage plot or talent-as-liberation, to offer more to the story. I love both books, but much preferred to linger over The Interestings, with its suggestion that more may not appear as expected, and need not disappoint. 

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: I am glad I waited a few years to read The Casual Vacancy; it would have been too much too soon to hear Rowling’s voice telling such a markedly different, uncompromisingly dark story. The majority of the characters are terrible people; this book left a dark and twisty place inside of me, which is also the way Wuthering Heights makes me feel. 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: The pacing in this novel was at times labored, but the sections that dragged set up an ending that twisted, turned, and really delivered. I was skeptical, but Wecker pulls Jewish and Arabian mythology together in nineteenth-century New York City, and it totally works. 

Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanThe Casual Vacancy and The Golem and the Jinni were on a list Kelsey made me. While both were excellent, they left me feeling glum. “I want to read something where everyone gets married,” I wrote her, “what do you suggest?” Everyone does not get married, but this is a quality palate cleanser. The narration style was grating for the first twenty pages or so, but then what initially seemed like forced profundity gave way to moving storytelling. Cue public crying on the train. 

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: Ugh, boring. Horrible. I was ready to abandon it 2/3 of the way through, but didn’t have another book for the commute home. If you want something fluffy, read Crazy Rich Asians.

Q

jenuity asked:

Hi! I love your Tumblr, and I absolutely adore Watson! I've been thinking about adopting a westie myself. Unfortunately, I have a 8-5 job & no one else is home at those times. I know it's not recommended to leave a dog home alone for that long, but I'll try to make up for it when I am home! I'm afraid that it'll develop separation anxiety and exhibit passive aggressive or just plain aggressive behaviors. If you have any experiences/advice that you can share, I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

A

Howdy! 

I’ve been thinking about your question for the past day. When I was looking at adoption applications and reading about dog care, everything made it seem like single people with average work days should not be dog owners. I wasn’t sure I should have a dog at all. At the time, I lived alone in Albuquerque, in an apartment without any fenced-in outdoor space. Including travel time, I was out of the house from 8:30-5:45. I didn’t have family or friends in the area (or the state). I had no previous experience being a dog owner. Fortunately, despite being a less than ideal candidate, I found a rescue willing to work with me, and to trust me with Watson.  

want to say that it won’t matter — that everything will be fine. And, it likely will be! Still, it’s more complicated than that, especially if you are adopting (PLEASE adopt!). The first week I spent with Watson was a mess. I took a few days off work, but my first attempt at leaving Watson alone led to him destroying my bathroom wall. The second attempt had him destroying his crate. I admitted defeat, and called my brother. Joe was sitting at home, post college graduation, with not a lot to do. Watson spent the days before Joe came to Albuquerque in doggie day care. My brother stayed for two weeks and spent every day crate training Watson, and working on his separation anxiety. Advice #1: Crate training is everything. If possible, try to be there (or find someone to be there) 24/7 in the beginning. Petfinder.com’s The Adopted Dog Bible looks to be out of print, but it was the best book I read about how to help an adopted dog adapt to a new home. 

After Joe left, things remained difficult. Watson and I went to dog training classes, and I bought him a metal crate that I locked with bungee cords. I walked away from my front door every day to screaming yelps and dog sobbing. It was terrible. 

Eventually, things improved. Watson loved his crate, and didn’t seem as troubled. I came home for lunch as often as possible. Four months later, I moved in with Kelli and Max to a house with a yard. I reduced my commute to work from 25 minutes to under 10 minutes. The move wasn’t all about Watson, but he was a big part of it. Kelli often came home for lunch with the puppies, and having one extra person and a dog friend around made all the difference. After Kelli, I lived with Tina, a student who was frequently home during the day and Tony, who worked from home. Watson was still sometimes crated for 8+ hours during those years, but with additional dog or cat company. I never again considered living alone, mostly because of Watson. Advice #2: As much as possible, try to make dog-friendly life choices

Now, we live in Brooklyn. Watson’s dad is a pianist. When Conor is in NY, he does most of his practicing at home, and tends to leave for rehearsals or concerts only a few hours before I get home from work. Conor travels extensively, though, and when he is gone, Watson is alone from 8:30 until 6:00. This is not ideal, but it is okay. We don’t use a crate anymore, and as long as access to trash cans are restricted, Watson is well-behaved. I leave him with kongs, puzzle toys, and pull up the blinds so he can look out the windows. This mostly works because after nearly 4 years together, we’ve finally sorted things out. Advice #3: This will take a long timeEven so, I’m starting to look at doggie daycare or dog walking in the area for days when I want to do something after work, or have to go in early. 

Watson remains very possessive of me and Conor, and tends to be clingy — there will be no personal space. If we pet other dogs at the park, Watson will snap at them. When dogs visit our home, Watson guards the bedroom, snapping if he thinks they are trying to go upstairs to “his” space. He still cries if I leave to get groceries on the weekend and hates it when Conor and I are in different rooms of the apartment. If I am traveling a lot and do not take him with me, you can bet there will be spite-poops in the living room the whole next week after I return. Ultimately, Watson is best behaved and happiest when he is with me. While I can’t take Watson everywhere (if only!), I spend a lot of time on his manners and grooming so that he is welcome as often as possible. This includes everything from minimizing barking, teaching cute tricks, getting him into a travel carrier, being good off-leash, and keeping his beard clean and white. Advice #4: Training is fun and people are much friendlier to polite puppies

The most important thing, though, is to full-on commit to giving a dog the best home possible and to being his or her best friend for all of his or her days. I could not have anticipated most of Watson’s idiosyncrasies, and it is likely that his problems and our solutions won’t be yours. If I knew then what I know now about Watson, however, I still would not have hesitated for a even a second to bring him home. Whatever goes wrong, we will fix; whatever happens, a life with Watson is worth it. 

Good luck!! 

image

"HEY MAHHHHM," says Watson on a Thursday evening. "IS IT TIME FOR THE PARK?" 

"Almost," I say, "but let’s sit quietly for a while."

"IS IT TIME FOR THE PARK?" Watson asks, when we are halfway through a movie. 

"Not yet," I say. "Get off the windowsill." 

"THIS LOOKS GREAT," Watson says, "I NEED A BIG BREAKFAST BEFORE GOING TO THE PARK. BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO EAT?"

"Okay, here we are. We are at the park."

"PARK PARK PARK," Watson says, "PARK PARK PARK.

SQUIRREL? PARRRRRRRRK.” 

"Did you have fun today?" I ask. 

"zzzz" says Watson. 

Maglia rosa tomatoes (amazing!! So delicious), Sweet 100 tomatoes, one pimento pepper (surprising heat levels), and cucumbers for days.