Moving On

Hi friends, family, and anonymous Poems About Oranges readers!

I've had a lot of fun writing about books, baking, and my life here, but I've been bothered for a long time about the lack of focus at PAO. I started working on this blog for career purposes, and I chose to cast my net very wide so that I had plenty to write about. My goal was to cultivate an active online presence and generate plenty of writing samples, and I got those things while I needed them.

But this blog no longer relates to my career goals, or to a lot of my interests. I still love reading, of course, but I post my reviews on Goodreads. And I still love baking, but I don't do much of it anymore because I've changed the way I eat.

That's why I have decided to retire Poems About Oranges and move onto another blog project: In the Key of Vegan. I've been experimenting with vegan cooking, and I wanted a way to document that experience and to maybe educate some folks about how genuinely delicious cooking without animal products can be.

You've probably noticed that I'm pretty invested in environmental issues, and this new project will hopefully allow me to make a small difference in how my readers think about food and their impact on climate change--even if I only inspire one reader to try one recipe, then that's a start!

I hope that you come check out the new blog or friend me on Goodreads. This has been a great experience, but I'm looking forward to the change!

With thanks and affection,


Easter, "which is natural which is infinite which is yes"

For a lot of different reasons, the last few weeks have been rough. Like day-old stubble rough. Like poorly poured concrete rough. Like bouncing down a mountain made of pumice stone rough.

Well, maybe not that rough, but they haven't been exactly bunny soft, either. Luckily, today was Easter, my favorite of all my family's holidays.

We frosted cookies . . .

and hunted for the golden egg, and played our candy guessing games, and--for some reason--thought that this was a good thing to do to our beloved grandfather on a solemn religious holiday:

Every year about the time spring rolls around, I feel like I need Easter, a second chance, a new year full of baby-soft green grass and egg-blue sky, and every year--wonderfully enough--I get it. And "(now the ears of my ears awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened)," and there's nothing to do but to enjoy it.

I haven't read a lot of e. e. cummings, but I always think of this poem on fantastically beautiful, happy days like this one. Happy Easter, all.

[i thank You God for most this amazing]
By e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


I never thought I'd say this, but . . .

I think I've lost months to watching NCAA basketball. I mean, I've also been busy with friends and travel, which are great, but I feel like I've spent most of my nights this spring happily planted on my favorite bar stool in downtown Lawrence watching what has been probably my favorite KU basketball team ever. Later in the next month or two, look for posts on
  • LONDON!!!
  • Reading about London, in London
  • A few of my favorite novels so far this year
  • The Best American Poetry 2011
In the meantime, these guys--these guys I like, win or lose:
Young, Robinson, and Taylor via The Kansas City Star's championship slideshow.
Elijah Johnson on this season:
"From Day 1, we heard about how we weren't going to do this or we weren't going to do that," Johnson said. "Ever since the [Morris] twins decided they were going to the draft and we lost all our seniors -- for us to get this far with the worst-talented team that I've been a part of at Kansas, I'm proud of this team. I love this team. I'll remember this team forever."
(Tyshawn, I'll miss yoooouuuuu!)


If Zadie Smith and Douglas Adams Had a Baby . . .

it would be precocious and aggressively clever and named January 2012.

Work has been so hectic this month that once January 23rd rolled around, I realized that I had only read one book since the new year: Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. "Only one?!" I thought. "I'm shooting for 52 total this year! I can do better."

Besides the busyness, I can also blame my lack of book-reading on my scattered forays into essays and poetry and stories that were way too heavy for winter months, like Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and a few choice back issues of The New Yorker and bits of The Best American Poetry of 2011 and Great English Essays: From Bacon to Chesterton. It was all very intellectually stimulating and vocabulary expanding and also sludgy and dreary, and it contributed nothing to my Goodreads list.

Smith's essays went along this same erudite vein, and they were painful in the same way that stretching a muscle you don't use very much is painful: it's difficult, and it burns, and your butt may feel like it's all the way across the room, but it's also invigorating and relaxing and almost certainly (you tell yourself) "for your own good."

Changing My Mind collects Smith's previously published essays on a mixed bag of topics, from reading her favorite authors (Zora Neale Hurston, George Eliot, Nabokov, and David Foster Wallace) to touring through impoverished Liberia and fancy dress parties in LA, to reviews of bad movies and British humor, to her father's death.

Smith opens her collection with an essay about her love for Their Eyes Were Watching God. She describes her relationship with this novel as "extraliterary": she appreciates Hurston's style and skill as an author, but she truly loves the novel because she feels like she shares Hurston's values, her story, her struggles and loves. I felt the same way about much of Smith's writing: I thought she was at her most brilliant when writing about authors I already loved (Hurston and George Eliot, specifically), but she lost me where our opinions differed; I very dutifully read her essay on Barthes and Nabokov and her (very, very) long paean to David Foster Wallace, but those bits of writing didn't sing for me.

Still, I was happy to have found something from Smith that I enjoyed; I read the first 200 pages of White Teeth, her wildly popular debut novel from 2000, and loathed it, so I was happily surprised to enjoy so many of her essays so much. I've gained respect for her obvious intelligence; her muscular, efficient, nuanced prose; and her ability to make me look up words on my Merriam-Webster dictionary app ("patois," "lacunae," "apogee"--never stop, Zadie! you're making me a smarter person!).

But after Smith's weight, I had to cleanse my reading palate. I turned right to Douglas Adams's  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the recommendation of a friend, and I wished instantly that I had read it when I was 12: it's manic, sugar-coated, and wildly imaginative. It's also more over-stuffed with jokes than (as my father would say) 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack. And while part of me thought, "Douglas Adams, this much funny is like serving me a bowl of gravy at Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, gravy is delicious, but where's the meat, buddy?" it was also quick and silly and just what I needed on January 26th, 2011.

What's next on my winter reading list? Definitely another tawdry faerie novel from Laurell K. Hamilton (after tackling Kafka for the first time, I've earned it!), as well as the steampunk YA novel Leviathan and maybe Game of Thrones or Ready Player One. Let my sci-fi/fantasy winter begin!


My Year in Lists: 2011

  • Final count: 47 books, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry!
  • Most fun: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I read twice! I also read the first five sequels in the Mary Russell series in a matter of months.
  • Biggest surprise: Eat, Pray, Love. I can admit that I found it profoundly moving when I read it last spring. Sometimes books live up to their hype.
  • Greatest accomplishment: Vanity Fair. It was looooooooong. Fortunately, its awesomeness was proportional to its length.
  • Highest quality to quantity ratio: Winesburg, Ohio. Written about small town Ohio in the early 20th century, Sherwood Anderson's tiny little collection of short stories was phenomenally beautiful, sad, and honest. I have no idea why I left it collecting dust on my To Read bookshelf for so long.
  • Best poetry: Sleeping Preacher
  • Fictional character I was most in love with: It’s a tie between Mary Russell’s Holmes or Mr. Thornton from North and South. (Feel free to draw your own conclusions from this!)

I was all about period dramas this year. My favorites were
All three of these were superbly written and beautifully produced and addictive as all get out. Thank you, Netflix!

What didn’t I listen to this year? Here’s a playlist of a few of my favorite songs from a few of my favorite artists this year. Most of these albums didn't come out in 2011, but they've all spent a lot of time on my iPod in 2011. 

Real Life
This year was tumultuous, at best, and while I was never bored, I was never quite at ease, either. 

The good:
  • Three good friends got married and another got pregnant for the first time. 
  • I got a new job that I love and am consistently challenged by.
  • I traveled to Denver and Winfield and Manhattan, Kansas had a great time with friends at all three locations. 
  • I did a lot of yoga and played a lot of softball and even did a bit of belly dancing. 
  • I started a book club with my friends.
  • I submitting my writing for publication again for the first time in years, and had a poem accepted for publication sometime in 2012!

The bad:
  • I had an icky bout of bursitis that kept me on the couch for a good chunk of the fall. 
  • My university went through a substantial restructuring process, and not everyone made it out unscathed. 
  • My mom was in the hospital twice and recovering from surgery for a good part of the year.
  • My grandma was in the hospital for a stroke and had to move to a nursing home with her husband in the fall.
  • My grandpa was in the hospital twice, first for a hip injury and again for blood clots a few weeks ago.

The confusing: 
  • Even awesome new jobs can be terribly stressful, baffling, brain-addling things.
  • I set aside my first savings for retirement and taught myself about a bunch of grown-up stuff like building credit and buying cars and health insurance deductibles. Yay responsibility?
  • I spent a lot of time thinking about Occupy Wall Street and the recession and global warming and the crimes at Penn State. The future seems more complicated and challenging than it ever has before.

When I look back on this year, I think that I’ll remember it as the first time that I realized that whenever life gets harder, sadder, or scarier, it also gets more interesting, gains a richer texture, becomes more precious and vital in its complexity. Life is a bit like beer: yes, Bud Lite (i.e. college life) is easy to drink, but it’s the bitter complexity of the hops that makes an IPA (being a 28-year-old) memorable. 

I’m glad I was here for 2011, whatever challenges it’s held, and I’m glad I got the chance to drink it to its dregs. So if you're lucky enough to live in the Midwest, go find yourself a Boulevard Single-Wide IPA and have a happy new year. See you again in 2012!