Sunday, September 21, 2014

September Update

I've been neglecting my blog again! I hate when this happens—and it seems to keep happening—because once I go a few days without blogging, it becomes even harder to get back into it! But I'll try to now.

The past few weeks have been buys ones for us. Two Sundays ago, AJ went back to CT for an appointment he had and stayed there for 5 days until I met him there. I went back on a Thursday after class and stayed until the following Monday morning. While there, I had a few appointments to tie up some wedding details and spending time with the people I missed. On Monday, Mom drove AJ and me back up to Boston. I brought quite a few more shower gifts and more clothes to have here at the apartment so it took me a little bit to unpack, not to mention I had a lot of homework to get done over that weekend.

We had a few days to get settled back in and then this past Friday, AJ's parents, siblings, and grandmother came to visit! We spent this weekend showing them around the Public Garden and Boston Common, eating at Quincy Market, going to Mass, eating Upper Crust Pizza on the roof, and spending time talking and hanging out together. It was really fun and it's hard to believe that the next time we'll see them it will be at our wedding! Which is 20 days away, by the way. Crazy!

AJ's family just left about two hours ago and we promptly fell asleep watching football. Tonight we're going to a Black Keys concert and tomorrow we'll be back to our normal routine. It's crazy how quickly the time is flying by.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

School So Far

Like I mentioned a few days ago, my first day of grad school went really well and it was really exciting! Since then, I've come to start to grasp how much work this semester, and probably the rest of my semesters as a grad student, will include. Not to mention...I got the TA job! I'm so, so very excited about that. I really want to have the opportunity to teach at the college level after grad school and I feel this is a great way to get experience, not to mention I'll be assisting a British Lit class in which we are reading some of my favorite authors and novels.

Plus, I've only had one out of my two classes so far and the work from one class alone feels like a big amount! I already talked about my homework for this week, and I just received the first story I'll have to critique for workshop on Wednesday. Now I've added a bit more work with the TA position—I am currently making my way through Book I and II of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, which is an essential read for a British Lit class, but I don't have it with me and I have to read it on my computer so it can be a little straining on the eyes. Regardless, as long as I'm reading or writing, I'm usually happy!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

AJ Turns 24

AJ and I celebrated his birthday on Friday. He turned 24! He opened his card and gift in the morning while we ate blueberry pancakes and turkey bacon. 

Celebrations really started that night! We tried a different restaurant in the North End that we'd never heard of before called La Summa. It was quieter because it's off the main drag. The prices were good, even better than most restaurants in the area, the setting was romantic, and the service was just right!

Not to mention the food. The food was delicious! We were hoping our expectations would be met and they definitely were! We couldn't stop talking about it. We started with their bruschetta which was prepared in a way I've never seen before. The slices of bread were big and thick with large chunks of tomato and mozzarella melted on top. For our entrees, AJ got the house special which included chicken, veal, sausage, peppers, and mushrooms served with homemade tagliatelle. The sauce it was cooked in was the best part! We both cleaned in his plate quickly and soaked up the left over sauce with fresh bread.

 I ordered the pollo limone which was a thick slice of lemon chicken with mozzarella, served with artichokes, spinach, and homemade spinach tagliatelle. It was just as good and such a big portion that i still have some in the fridge! We were very impressed by the food and the portion size, especially for the great price! I'm so glad AJ enjoyed in his birthday dinner, it would have been a bummer if the food and experience were bad!

After stopping off to buy a little bottle of limoncello, we came home to eat the birthday cake I made him the day before. It wasn't really a cake, but AJ loves magic bars, so I baked them for him in a round pan and cut it up like a cake. Magic bars are like 7 layer bars; the bottom is a layer of crushed graham crackers (or corn flakes) mixed with butter, than chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut, all covered with condensed milk. It's his favorite treat—my grandmother makes them the best—so I thought it would be perfect for his birthday, even though it's not really a cake.

Oh, and I could only find pink candles.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

On My First Day as a Graduate Student

And what an eventful day it was! It started the same as any other with an early morning trip to the gym and plans to sprawl out on the grass of the Boston Common to get some sun. But, no, that did not happen. Instead, as I killed time on my computer waiting for it to get just a bit warmer, I received an email from a literature professor, following up with my application to be a Teacher's Assistant. I scheduled a time to meet with him, then regretted scheduling the interview for four o'clock, giving me five hours to think and worry about it.

But luckily, we did some stuff to take my mind off it. Around 11, AJ and I went to Brattle Book Shop. I picked up a short fiction anthology, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, for $3 each!

From there, we walked over to Boloco at their Commons location where it was free burrito day! Neither of us have tried Boloco before, but every time I walk by I'm tempted to try everything! Their shakes, salads, bowls, and burritos all sound delicious and—with it being free and all—we decided it was the perfect time to try it out! The line was kind of long but we were there before noon and the line only got longer after that. AJ got a chicken teriyaki burrito and I got the chicken tikka masala burrito. They were both delicious and (we each got a small burrito) the perfect size. We will definitely go back to Boloco—it's free burrito day at their School St. location in two weeks. 

After that, all I had left to do was get ready for my interview and class. I changed into the most grown up outfit that was conducive to the sweltering heat. My shirt had birds on it but the skirt was J. Crew so I figured it worked. I went to the meeting, was there a little early, and talked to the professor about the job. It sounded great and he gave me a little assignment to do—grade a student paper—to see how I work and he invited me to sit in on the first day of class, which I did this morning. I felt surprisingly old, even though I was an undergrad just a few months ago! But I did feel pretty lucky to be taking a British Lit class for free! I haven't been offered the job yet, but fingers crossed!

After the interview, I ran home quickly, changed into jeans, ate a quick omelette for dinner before over packing my schoolbag with books, paper, a laptop, and lots of pencils and hurried back out to school. My class was on the 11th floor of a building on Boylston. I was in awe when I walked into the classroom, one whole wall was made of windows, giving me the best view the Common, the State House, Beacon Hill, and beyond. I was very distracted during class. 

Some of us were early and some other students filtered in just after 6 so we spent the first ten minutes or so doing a free write on the prompt, the best time of day. We didn't have to read it or share and it was a great way to start the class. I'm usually terrified of in-class free writes but this one came pretty easily for me! There are 12 of us in class, all of different ages and stages of life. Some people have been writing for a long time and are very experienced in workshops and some others are relatively new to fiction writing. 

The professor, Daphne, was wonderful and smart and made everyone feel comfortable. After the free write, we went around the room a few times to introduce ourselves, talk about our writing background, and who were our favorite authors to read. We went over the syllabus, which told us all how much work we will have, and made a schedule to workshop our fiction. We then read a great short story and had a discussion on it for quite sometime. The class is supposed to last from 6 to 9:45. Last night, we left class around 8:20 and I was in bed by 9:30 and I kept thinking to myself 'I would still be in class if this weren't the first day.'

We were assigned two short stories, one by Chekhov and one by Grace Paley, to read and prepare for discussion, two student stories to read and write critiques on, and we each have to write a 3-5 page story or story fragment which takes place all in one scene. I'm glad we have smaller writing assignments on top of the short stories we will write for workshop so that it doesn't feel like we only have to write twice a semester. My first short story is due for workshop on September 17th!

I'm looking forward to next week's fiction workshop and this coming Tuesday I will have my first day of my other class called Teaching College Composition. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Currently Reading: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Yay! I've been waiting for a while to finally read this book and now that I have it and it's available in the US, I'm not wasting any time! I finished reading Russian Winter last night (spoiler: it was great. I'll post on it soon) and I began Elena Ferrante's final installation of her well-known Neapolitan Trilogy.

I'm already so engrossed and invested in this story of two friends, Elena and Lila, from having read the first two installations—two books that I suggest everyone read. Ferrante's writing is exceptional. She explores the true elements of a sometimes hurtful, sometimes inspiring friendship. She writes of Naples and Italy in the 1950s and 60s in such a way that it becomes real and relevant to today's world.

I find myself getting genuinely excited for Elena, the narrator of this story, when she finds out that her fiancé has been offered a tenure professor job at a university in Florence in the first few pages of this book. It's not always easy for me to feel the emotions of a character I read about, but Ferrante writes in a manner that makes it feel as if this excitement is part of my own life, as if this is happening to a close friend of mine or even to me!

Another reason that I love this story so much is because of Elena, the narrator's, life. She was born into a family that is preoccupied with hard work, not education or self improvement. Elena has always felt that she is in the shadow of her best friend, Lila, even though Lila only has an elementary level education and has been stuck in an unhappy marriage and now finds herself a single mother, working in a sausage factory. Elena, however, graduates high school and goes to a university in Pisa. She writes a novel, based on her childhood and her Neapolitan neighborhood, that is quickly published. Further, she finds herself engaged to an intelligent professor with a good, strong family. But somehow, her friendship will Lila constantly causes anguish and will always cause her to doubt herself and the life—far away from their Naples—she has chosen.

I love the fact that Elena succeeds, that she becomes highly educated though she comes from a community of people who do not necessarily support or encourage it. I love that she finds herself as an accomplished and well-recieved author. I love all of these details and I can't wait to see how they unfold through this last book of the trilogy.

I'm sure I will read it quickly out of sheer enjoyment, but I will miss it when it's done and when Ferrante has written all she can about the lives of Elena and Lila.