I have an OU Cousin. I have been part of the OU Cousins program before, but I was often paired with a cousin who didn’t really want to hang out or do anything together. But this year, I met Céline, a French exchange student from the University of Bordeaux.

Céline is at OU to study American History and Literature. She prefers to concentrate on African American history, which is perfect because not only am I black, and therefore compelled to enjoy the company of anyone as woke as Céline, but I have an extensive knowledge of African American history due to my elementary education at a private all-black elementary school and my parents’ influence. From the very first moment we hung out, we hit it off. We’d been emailing back and forth, talking about this and that. I invited her to coffee, but she told me that she needed groceries and had no means of transportation. So, a few Friday’s back, I picked her up at Traditions and the two of us went grocery shopping.

She told me about markets in France, and how they’re not usually as big as Walmart. I convinced her to try some Little Debbie snacks, which I think she enjoyed. After the grocery store, we went to lunch at a Mediterranean place near my house. I live right across the street from her apartment, so it was no big deal for us to have lunch on my roof. We talked about our families. She has a brother and a sister, like me. But she’s the middle child, and I’m the oldest. We talked about “frat culture” and Greek letter societies, which are apparently unique to America. She said that they don’t have fraternities in France, at least not in the same way that we do here. We even talked about police brutality and how social justice movements that address American societal problems get more support abroad than they do here. She told me that they even had a Black Lives Matter protest at her university.

Last week, Céline came over and she and I went thrift shopping with my roommate. It was really fun, despite all the traffic and road construction. Céline was really excited to be invited thrift shopping, she said that she didn’t know that we had second-hand shops. I’d recent;y gone to the Pre-Departure Orientation for my study abroad program, where I’d learned some of the American stereotypes. On the ride over, my roommate–Nikki–and I asked her if they were true. She said that she’d heard that “all Americans are rich” and that “Americans are loud” and even “Americans are dumb/gullible.” I asked her why she thought Europeans thought that. She said: “Well, since America is far, when people can come to Europe, people think they must have lots of money. And when people think of America, they think of…I think his name is George Bush? And also Homer Simpson, that’s why some people think Americans are not smart. But yes, Americans are loud.” Nikki and I cracked up.

When we got to the thrift stores, I found a few sweaters and Céline found a denim jacket and few other pieces that she liked. We also stopped at Sonic for a milkshake. Well, Céline got a milkshake, a cheesecake milkshake to be exact. She loves that you can get two desserts in one here.

Céline is staying for an entire year, which is a little bit of a bummer, because I’m going to France next semester, so we won’t get to hang out after this semester ends. But I’m glad that I’ve gotten to know her, and maybe one day when she’s back in France I’ll get to go visit, or she’ll come back to the States for a trip. All I know is that it’s fun to make new friends, no matter where they come from.


Famous Last Words: Procraftinating

Yup, you read that title right. ProCRAFTinating is something that I’m really good at, and it’s that time of the semester again. My friends made up that word to describe what I do every semester for the few weeks leading up to finals. I love crafting and I find it really relaxing, so it makes sense that toward finals I always find myself painting, sewing, or knitting. Or embroidering, like I did all weekend instead of homework or studying, which was really fun, even if my hand kind of aches from holding the needle for so long.

It’s kind of a vicious cycle, because once I’m done crafting I’m immediately swamped with the stress I had before, as well as additional stress because I just “wasted” so much time. But I love crafting so much! Sometimes I just need a break from homework and everything else to make something for myself or a friend! It’s hard to find a good balance. Taking time for myself is important, but so is school and my GPA. Which is more important? Should I prioritize one over the other?

The answer to that is “probably not.” I feel kind of like a pendulum that keeps swinging from one side to the other when I should be in the middle. On the bring side, the laws of motion say that the pendulum will loose momentum (due to drag and such) and will eventually come to rest in the center. And, until I find that wonderful balance, I’ll have some really awesome crafts to give all my friends!

Maybe I should allot myself a little time every day or every other day for crafting, so that I can de-stress without losing an entire weekend. It sound like a happy medium, if I can convince myself to stick to it! 🙂

Image: Personal photo of the craft I made this weekend

Learning Challenge: The Happiness Jar (Part 2)

Last week I wrote a post about something I found while browsing the class blog called the Happiness Jar (read my first post here) and I decided to try it. Now I get to tell you how it went!

My first thought is that this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Paying more attention to the nice things going on around me was great, but trying to remember to write them down and keep track actually added stress to my days. I was hoping this would be a calming or relaxing thing to do, but it wasn’t. Maybe because it was for class?

Try as I might I didn’t get every day like I hoped I would. Here’s what I did record:

Monday –

Tuesday – I cleaned my room! I love walking into a clean and well organized room!

Wednesday – I went to the gym! I also got my Econ exam back!

Thursday – I got free dinner! I also got some good news about grades!

Friday –

Saturday – I got to set up and participate in a wine dinner/tasting

Sunday – I actually accomplished a lot of things, and finally got something done that has been on my to-do list for weeks!

Obviously I didn’t start the week off strong with missing Monday, but I’d say that 5 out of 7 days really isn’t that bad. Over all I think this was nice – looking back at my week just now was really cool, and it’s nice to remind yourself of the good things that happened. But I think because I was forcing myself to do it (not well obviously) it was more stressful than it should have been. I don’t think that I’ll keep up with this, but I’m glad I did it for a week!

Image: Positivity by MartaZ*. Source: Flickr

Winery Visit – Canadian River Vineyard and Winery

Recently I went to Canadian River Vineyard and Winery to do a tasting and tour. I didn’t want to go by myself and I didn’t know anyone else in the class who could go, so I ended up getting a group of friends from work who all went with me, and it was great!

We started out with a wine tasting – or I did at least. My friends all happened to be about 15 minutes late while I was about 10 minutes early, so I spent some time talking to the owners. They’re really nice! I told them I was in the class and they knew what I was talking about. We had a great conversation about Italian wines too, once I mentioned that I had been to Italy. And I had a glass of their Noble Blush wine while I waited.,

Once everyone (finally) arrived we got right to tasting! Canadian River had a lot more wines that I would have expected from a small vineyard in Oklahoma!

Our group sprang for a cheese and cracker and meat plate to sample while we were tasting, and I loved it! It felt like I was back in Italy again!

These are most of the wines I tried, with the exception of their award winning Chocolate Drop wine, which was good but not my favorite.

I went back a few weeks later to go to their grape stomp festival, and I tried a few more wines then, but I don’t have any pictures of those.

I got a glass of the White Zinfandel “to go,” and then we went on the tour!

We started by going into the field to see the vines.

Canadian River harvests in August, by hand, so that had already happened. But they only grabbed the grapes that were suitable for wine production, so there were still quite a few on the vine. They said those are used for the grape stomp festival (which was super fun!)

The guy giving us the tour really seemed to know his stuff, which was awesome. He brought a refractometer with him to show us how they measure the sugar content to determine exactly when to harvest. Their vines are 17 years old right now, and all of their wine is made from their own grapes (when they first started, that didn’t used to be true).

Then we headed inside. They have a de-stemmer as well as a crusher that they use, and primary fermentation happens in stainless steel holding tanks.

They use cultured yeast for fermentation (which I want to say is pretty common, but they specifically said that, so I though I’d include it) and age their reds in oak barrels for two years.

They get their barrels from the owner’s son, who has a winery in California. After he uses them for a few years, they get shipped to Oklahoma and used for a few more years. Yay Recycling!

They do all the bottling by hand and they use real cork, but I think they have a machine that labels the bottles for them.

and the owner said that they recently made a business deal that will get them in local stores next year! That was the end of the tour, which was timed perfectly. Right as we went back into the tasting room it started absolutely pouring, so we took our time packing up. I bought three bottles of wine from them: their White Zinfandel, the Dry Riesling (my favorite that they make), and the Chocolate Drop (for my mother – she loved it). You can’t see them, but I promise they’re in those bags! 🙂

Eventually it did stop raining, and then we took a few pictures before going to get food together! I had a great time and I can’t wait to go back!

Wine Dinner – Blu (Brunch)

So fun fact, me and my friend Courtney (who is also in the Geography of Wine Class) decided to go have lunch at Blu, and we were going to have an Italian theme Wine Dinner for lunch! Unfortunately for some reason they were only serving their Brunch menu – even though it specifically says on their website that the dinner menu is served from open to close. So Courtney and I had to get a little creative.

(Me and Courtney trying to decide what to order)

So what did we come up with? We both decided to roll with the punches and have some wine with our breakfast (brunch)! We did get a few strange looks, but it was all for the wine, so it was worth it! I decided to get the “American” breakfast, because it sounded tasty, and it had an abundance of different foods for pairings, and the Passport wine flight because it seemed like the best bet (besides the Crimson and Cream, but Courtney got that).

(My Selections)

While we were waiting for the food and wine to arrive Courtney and I admired the general ambiance of the restaurant, which was really cool, and we noticed some Rorschach tests hung up on the wall. We debated about those, joked around, and generally had an awesome time!

(These were some of the decorations. I see a skull on top, a panda bear in the middle, and a crab on the bottom.)

Then the food arrived

(My plate)

followed shortly by the wine

(My flight)

and Courtney and I got started!

(Excited to pair some food and wine!)

After Reading the descriptions of the wines provided by the restaurant, I decided to start with pairing the Domaine de la Damase Grenache with the scrambled eggs, because of the description provided.

(Domaine de la Damase Grenache Description)

I figure the eggs would help mellow out some of that initial acidity and allow some of the other flavors to express themselves more. First I tasted the wine by itself so that I could see how it changed with the food. It was good, and I could definitely make out the spicy tobacco flavors, along with cherry. It had a lot of tannins, and the description did not lie about the initial acidity.

Then I tried it again with the scrambled eggs. They definitely mellowed out the tannins and the acid, like I hoped they would, and the fruity flavors did become more pronounced. I also noticed some hints of plum that I hadn’t noticed when I tried the wine by itself. The food also brought out the spicy flavors, which I normally don’t like, but they weren’t so bad, probably because they were accompanied by the food. Pairing one = success!

I had some bread and water between courses to try and make sure that I was coming at each wine from the same place.

The second pairing I decided on was the bacon and ham with the Stemmari Nero d’Avola wine. I thought this would work out pretty well because I recognized the wine name as Italian, and I’ve almost always had Italian wines paired with prosciutto. Okay, so it was a guess, but it turned out great!

(Stemmari Nero d’Avola Description)

The wine by itself was really sweet when it hit the tip of your tongue with strawberry and pomegranate flavors. It had a lot of tannins, but it was really smooth. Having it with the bacon brought out the sweetness, but left the tannic component and mouthfeel unchanged. The ham, on the other hand, brought out the sweetness in a slightly different way, so instead of strawberry and pomegranate, I got more cherry and black currant flavors. The ham also mellowed out a lot of the tannins, which I think was really nice. Over all, both the bacon and the ham worked with this pairing, but the ham definitely went better with the wine.

After a little breather and some more bread and water, I moved right along to pairing number three! The final wine, a Loca Linda Malbec, was one that I was really excited to try based on the description.

(Loca Linda Malbec Description)

I decided to pair it with the potatoes, because I thought that a neutral background might really let this wine show what it could do. I tried the wine first, like I did with all the others, and it smelled fruity and citrusy and fantastic. But then I tried it and I was very disappointed to be unable to find any of those fruity flavors I had been led to believe were there. The potatoes did let the wine express itself a little more, and I found some hints of chocolate and vanilla that weren’t detectable when the wine was on its own, but still no fruity flavors. I tried this particular wine three more times with different foods on my plate, in an attempt to find something that would bring out the fruit flavors that were supposedly there, to no avail. Honestly, I feel like that wine was a lie.

So Courtney and I tried each other’s wines, and then focused on finishing off our brunch, and just hanging out. It was really nice

(Wine pairings are done and I still have all this food!)

Overall, I think two of the three wine and food pairings went really well, although I don’t think I’ll be having wine with breakfast food again any time soon. But this was a really fun experience, and I can’t wait to do it again!



Wine Tasting: Beringer Moscato

Name: Beringer Moscato

Variety: Moscato

Region: California

Country: USA

Year: NV

Price: $11.99

Winemaker Description:

Peach-scented, honeysuckle aromas. Fresh, sweet flavors of juicy stone fuit, honeydew melon, Fuji apple and ripe pear.

My Review:

I messed up a little when I tasted this wine. It was the second of two wines I tasted that day, and I assumed the first would be semi-sweet with this one being fully sweet, but that ended up being backwards. You know what they say when you assume things… Regardless, once my palate adjusted to the less sweet wine, I ended up enjoying it. It’s not my favorite, but it was much better than the first one, so I was happy. The wine was a very light golden color that reminded me of honey. The bouquet was made up of apple and pear scents, along with something a little citrusy, that I think might have been orange. The overall taste was good, but I wish it had a little more “zing” to it. The flavors were mainly composed of apples, pears, and melons.

I drank this wine by itself and it was alright, but I think the right food could give it that little something it’s missing. Maybe a nice piece of breaded flounder or seafood risotto.

Wine Tasting: Sweet Red

Name: Liberty Creek Sweet Red

Variety: Red Blend

Region: California

Country: USA

Year: NV

Price: $12.99

Winemaker Description:

Sweet Red is a blend of red wines that yield a fresh fruit forward taste. This brilliant wine captures the flavors and aromas of rich, ripe fruit. Typically characterized by sweet berry notes, it has a soft finish and refreshing mouth feel.

Our Sweet Red is soft and sweet with layers of bright cherry and wild boysenberry flavors, and a silky smooth finish. Enjoy chilled. It pairs perfectly with everyday foods, such as burgers, pizza, spicy, chili and hot chicken wings.

My Review:

This wine was probably really good, but I personally didn’t like it at all. I wanted to try a sweet red because I haven’t had the best experiences with them in the past, but I think maybe I just don’t like sweet red wines. I must just be biased, but red wine is supposed to be more dry. The wine was overall light; light colored red, light body, and it had very little taste. The only scent I could make out past overwhelming sugar was strawberry, and it was the same with the taste. I don’t know if there were supposed to be other flavors or aromas but, if there were, they drowned in the super high sugar content. I felt like I was drinking sugar water. Hopefully one of my friends will like it, because I can’t see myself finishing it.

I drank this wine by itself and, well, I’m sure you can tell how I felt about it. I can’t really image eating anything with this wine that would make it better. I feel like it would just make the food taste worse.


Trans-Hijras of India

A few days ago, I came across an article discussing the marginalized and socially excluded Hijra community in India who face a fair amount of discrimination, prejudice, and violence towards them because of their identity. In India, trans-Hijra individuals face gender based discrimination against them and are subject to a great amount of violence within public spaces. People are overtly critical and discriminatory against Hijras and because of it, they are socially, economically, and politically disadvantaged. Although Hijras are believed to have auspicious powers in relation to fertility and perform at weddings and births, they are one of the most disempowered groups in India. Because of their social standing, trans-Hijras have limited job opportunities and most of them have resorted to sex work in order to survive. I feel that Hijras and their socioeconomic situation is not very well covered by the media and I feel that awareness needs to be made, in order to empower and raise awareness about their identities.


International Event: “It’s Good to Be the King, or Is It?” Lecture

It's Good to Be the King Lecture On Friday, November 3, the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies welcomed Dr. Mohamed Daadaoui as part of the Brown Bag Lecture Series. Dr. Daadaoui’s lecture “It’s Good to Be the King, or Is It?” discussed the three main challenges facing the Moroccan monarchy, the monarchy’s responses, and what these challenges mean for the future of the monarchy. Dr. Daadaoui concluded that it is no longer good to be the king in Morocco because the monarchy has opened itself up to criticism by delving into the political fray. Dr. Daadaoui predicted that it will take reinvention to lift the monarchy back into its place of irreproachability.

After an introduction by Dr. Samer Shehata, Dr. Daadaoui launched right into his lecture. After differentiating the types of monarchies and management techniques they employ, Dr. Daadaoui presented the three challenges to the monarchy. The most effective example was the challenge presented by the popularity of the Party for Justice and Development under the leadership of Abdelilah Benkirane, and the monarchy’s response of sacking him. This example best demonstrated how the monarchy had lowered itself into the political scene. Dr. Daadaoui convincingly demonstrates that doing so has shifted the monarchy’s iconography from one of order and stability to one of a political institution capable of being criticized, and it will therefore require rebranding to succeed in the long run.

Dr. Daadaoui was careful not to portend the death of the monarchy, which makes his argument more credible because it is clear from the 2011 uprisings that there is no predicting the future of the region’s regimes. The lecture was very substantial and provided solid evidence for its claims, without going too extreme in its conclusions.

International Event: A is For Arab Traveling Exhibit

A is for Arab Exhibit          On the lower level of the Bizzell Memorial Library is the A is for Arab traveling exhibit, which comes from the Jack G. Shaheen Archive from New York University. The exhibit seeks to depict and subvert the stereotypical portrayals of Arabs in American pop culture. The exhibit is composed of eight large panels — front and back — six of which introduce the exhibit and the stereotypical portrayals of Arabs and two of which challenge the prevalent stereotypes. The exhibit is on loan through October 27. Although a compact exhibit, A is for Arab successfully introduces viewers to the topic and makes them confront some of their own prejudices and assumptions that are perpetuated by U.S. pop culture.

The exhibit is limited because it is a traveling exhibit, so there is not a lot of material to read or view; however, the exhibit makes good use of what space it has by showing many different representations of Arabs over the last 100 years, all of which center on Arabs being “other” and therefore inherently different than the white Western consumer. I think the exhibit highlights the most damaging realizations of Arabs in American media — that Arab women are oppressed and sexualized and Arab men are terrorists out to destroy the West. Although the exhibit does not delve deeply into the consequences of these representations, the images do speak for themselves, and they tell a story of a country with a white-savior complex and a mission to vilify a region in order to justify its own behavior.

The best panel of the exhibit is the V is for Villain panel because it reflects what I consider to be the biggest prejudice Americans have toward Arabs. This panel does an excellent job connecting the dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims to the violence committed against them. Of course, a single film or comic book is not going to drive someone to commit a hate crime, and the panel does not argue this. Rather, the exhibit as a whole and this panel in particular show how an upbringing raised on such images truly does have an impact in the way people view each other. After the attacks on 9/11, Americans were desperate to view all Arabs as terrorists out to destroy their way of life, and pop culture fed them the narrative they wanted to hear. The panel points out how Hollywood does not distinguish one nationality from another and therefore portrays the region monolithically, which only makes it easier to dehumanize all people from the Middle East (and even beyond since Americans often do not distinguish Arabs from South Asians).

Although I understand the constraints, I wish the exhibit included more current examples of depictions of Arabs in pop culture. While I understood the message of the exhibit, I could not fully appreciate many of the examples because they were from so long ago. Since this is an exhibit traveling around colleges, I think the exhibit could stand to benefit by including more recent examples so college students would have to confront how the media they grew up with perpetuates the same stereotypes that have been around for decades.

The exhibit is a valid condemnation of the way Americans have portrayed Arabs in their media. The stereotypes on display are ones that surround me every day in headlines, in Hollywood, in conversations. The message in the exhibit is one that needs to be said more often and more loudly if we ever want to see American culture change to truly be more tolerant and welcoming like we often pride ourselves on being.