Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Making Babies

Making Babies
Making Babies by Anne Enright

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne Enright makes me want to be a writer. Unfortunately, she is so amazing at capturing the small moments and parents' feelings and thoughts during the first year of a baby's life, I realize I would be a writing failure. She has a way of identifying things I didn't know I felt about motherhood. I would like to think we have similar souls, but I think it has more to do with a moderate amount of snark (and me wishing I was cool too).

This has been the most enjoyable parenting memoir I've read so far in this new journey. I love it and would strongly recommend it, even if you don't have any babies of your own. (I forced my husband to read it against his will, he loves it as well).

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The Relaxation that is Milk Tea

There is nothing quite like milk tea on a chilly and rainy spring day. Admittedly, it is one of those days. I woke up feeling so extremely tired around 6:00 am (with the baby, of course), and it took literally four hours to actually get going. Of course Felicity wanted to stay awake and play until I was finally waking up and ready to get out of bed. Thank goodness she's finally able to communicate that she's tired and will actually go to sleep by herself if I lay her down in her crib. It only took four and a half months to get here!

So now I am sitting on the chaise, still in my loungies at eleven in the morning, drinking milk tea. And thank goodness for milk tea.

Milk Tea (Two Varieties)

Milk tea is delicious with all sorts of teas, but my favorites are a classic English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast, Chai, or Earl Grey. I want to try to make this with a black vanilla or marzipan tea, when I can get my hands on them again.

#1 (The Best Way)
Put four cups of milk and 1 heaping tablespoon of loose leaf tea (or 2-3 tea bags) into a small-medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the milk starts to simmer. Stir/whisk often for 4-5 minutes as the milk simmers, then reduce the heat to low (or medium-low, depending how hot your stove gets). Continue to cook the tea for at least ten more minutes, but really, the longer it cooks, the better it will be, so I suggest letting it simmer for 45-60 minutes on low. Add a splash of real vanilla if desired, strain, and serve. You can also sweeten the tea many ways (honey, sugar, maple syrup), but my very favorite is brown sugar.

#2 (For Milk Tea in a Hurry)
 This milk tea won't have the complexity or rich texture, but it's ready in a few minutes. That's right, you nuke it! Just make sure that whatever the microwave-safe implement you use to cook the milk in, it has at least 2x the capacity for the milk you're using (for four cups of milk, use something that holds at least 8 cups), unless you fancy wiping down your microwave. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, letting the milk get to a nice rolling boil so it cooks down a little. Strain, sweeten, and serve as you would above.

Well, it's time to read some feminist philosophy while the baby sleeps. Wish me luck.

Review: Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day
Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, the title is a bit misleading and the appendix on working with computers is terribly outdated, but this is a fantastic read for anyone doing scholarly writing, whether it's a thesis (like I'm attempting), a dissertation, or a piece for a conference and/or publication.

The basic rule is: Write every day, for at least 10-15 minutes (to start), and during that time, never stop writing, even for a moment. Bolker suggests that once you're comfortable with this, to start giving yourself small projects (today I will write on subject x), and gradually increase your writing time. What this gives you is a "Draft Zero," or really basic idea of what you're interested in, what you argument is, and where you should take the paper. After this, Bolker leads you through how to organize, polish, and rework what you have into first (the first time you have a cohesive paper of some sort), second, and third drafts, and so on.

I have high hopes that this writing technique (and the rest of her advice) will help move me forward; I've been stuck for too long in the same spot in my research.

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